Nourishing Older Bodies over the Festive Season


Summer and Christmas holidays are an opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones and reconnect with older friends or relatives. It might also be a time where we have a chance to notice changes in a person. They may appear to have lost weight, be eating less than usual, getting sick more frequently, look frailer or have more difficulty moving. These are signs that someone may be at risk of malnutrition.  

Signs of malnutrition  

When a person is not getting all the essential nutrients needed to stay healthy, a loved one or carer should look out for the following signs:

  • Impaired intake 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty swallowing 
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Taste changes 
  • Poor oral health
  • Ill-fitting dentures or poor dentition 
  • Large periods of time between meals 
  • Anxiety or depession 
  • Excessive alcohol intake 
  • Impaired absorption or increased metabolic demand from medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, infection, coeliac disease, fractures or cancer. 

Malnutrition can result in: 

Increased risk of

Decreased risk of

  • Hospital admissions
  • Longer length of stay
  • Post-operative complications
  • Infections
  • Placement into residential care
  • Falls
  • Pressure ulcers and delayed healing
  • Mortality
  • Increased health care costs – to the service and the individual
  • Strength
  • Mobility
  • Independence
  • Quality of life


Seek professional advice 

A dietitian is specially trained to tease out nutrition related information, to get an individualised picture of the person, their needs and clinical status. A dietician will prioritise clinical conditions and adjust their care plan so the patient/person focused and tailored to what is reasonable and achievable for the individual. 

You can find an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) close to you by visiting or by contacting your local hospital/outpatient clinic, Community Health Centre, Private practice (in clinic or home visiting), DVA referral, Residential Aged Care or through a Chronic Disease Management Plan (CDM) (EPC) or Home Care Package.



Author: Emma Mits is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, specialising in older age and dementia. She is a Consultant Dietitian visiting patients at home or in residential care and is a Senior Dietitian at the Royal Melbourne Hospital Royal Park Campus. Visit:

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