Undernutrition awareness, monitoring, and treatment

I’m very happy to announce that my first publication is a fact!! It’s really out there people, with a DOI and everything, ha! You can find the whole article here. No worries regarding a pay wall: it’s open access :-) Keep reading if you’re interested in undernutrition awareness, monitoring, and treatment!

The title of the article is a real mouthful, but that fits its content, as it’s quite long because it discusses a qualitative study. I understand that not everyone has time to read the whole thing, so what about a short summary?

Together with my colleague Ellen van Dongen, I interviewed 22 professionals who have experience with undernutrition among older adults. These professionals were for example dietitians, GPs, home care nurses, but also other researchers who also study this topic within their works. If I could, I would thank them all in public (because: credits where credits are due), but unfortunately I can’t because of anonymity. Luckily, I can discuss their experiences!

First of all, I have to say that undernutrition awareness is much higher now than it was only a couple of years ago, mainly thanks to the efforts of the Dutch Malnutrition Steering Group and all the professionals around it. Still, it seems like the awareness around undernutrition is still limited among older adults themselves and among professionals within the care sector. This limited awareness forms the root of the problem and plays an overarching, large role in the inadequate management of undernutrition. There are also quite some problems with monitoring the nutritional status of older adults, as it’s unclear to many who is responsible for it, and how this monitoring should be done. While most professionals point towards the GPs and home care nurses, these professionals in turn do not consider themselves responsible regarding the nutrition of their patients.

Improving this limited monitoring can support the dietitians, who currently feel that they become involved too late, which results in a treatment that fails to be really effective. In addition, the researchers I interviewed said that treatment effectiveness would benefit greatly from dietitians who train in following the guidelines on undernutrition treatment, with specific attention to personalization, justification, implementation, and evaluation. So basically: look for the best suitable treatment, explain to the patient why this treatment is necessary, give the treatment as it was designed, and regularly check whether the patient manages to follow the treatment, and make adjustment when necessary.

Sounds all quite logical and simple, I know, but of course there are many barriers to realizing this. That’s why I conclude the article with the advice to give more attention to the already available undernutrition management guidelines, and look for ways to facilitate the implementation of these guidelines. We have come a long way, that’s for sure, and I sincerely believe that we will go even further throughout the years, thanks to the engaged, committed professionals like the ones in this study…

Undernutrition Management: A New Hope ;-)

Edit: the official press release!