Written by Whitney Hussain, Dietitian, Nutrition Services

Canadian Malnutrition Awareness Week focuses on the importance of providing adequate nutrition support to patients who are discharged home. Read on to learn how.

Did you know that one in four patients loses weight unintentionally when they leave a hospital? And that this weight loss could lead to return visits?

Furthermore, only 10 per cent of patients leaving a hospital will see a registered dietitian in their community after they are discharged. As a result, for many patients, the transition to home from hospital can lead to increased vulnerability to malnutrition and poor health outcomes, as malnourished patients being at higher risk for hospital readmission within 30 days of discharge.

As our health care system becomes more focused on a “home is best” approach, a registered dietitian’s role in continuing care for malnourished patients is even more important. The journeytoward healing and recovery for patients in the community requires taking medicine as prescribed as well as eating healthy, because food is medicine too.

Canadian Malnutrition Awareness Week is runs from September 25-29th. This year’s focus is “From Hospital to Home.” This theme stresses the importance of providing adequate support and resources regarding nutrition at home to our patients.

Some risk factors for patients who are likely to be at ongoing risk for malnutrition after discharge include:

  • Age of 65 years or older
  • Poor appetite
  • Requiring assistance with obtaining groceries
  • On a hard to follow diet (example: post-operative diet, home tube feeds)

So how can you as health care professionals help patients at risk for malnutrition who are going home?

Here are a few tips:

  • Explain why food and nutrition are important for their recovery
  • Confirm that someone will monitor their appetite and weight at home
  • Encourage families to keep shelves and refrigerators stocked with food, to visit at meal times and dine together when possible
  • Provide a list of community resources available for nutritional support

Want more information about Canadian Malnutrition Week? Check out www.nutritioncareincanada.ca, chat with your unit dietitian, or contact me at Whitney.hussain@fraserhealth.ca with your nutrition questions.

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