How does social care support older adults’ food and drink-related needs?

Dr Lavinia Bertini (Brighton and Sussex Medical School) and Dr Stacey Rand (University of Kent)

There are an estimated 1.3m people in the UK, aged 65 or over, at risk of malnutrition. This is a major cause of health deterioration and mortality among older people. It is associated with a range of complex interrelated factors, including limited mobility or dexterity, cognitive impairment, social isolation, inaccessibility of shops and food outlets, lack of transport, and low or fixed incomes.

Community-based social care, especially homecare services, can play an important role in sustaining the health and wellbeing of older people living at home. They can help with the basic tasks of managing nutrition and hydration, but also the personal, social and cultural aspects of food and drink. However, there has been relatively little research into the food and drink-related needs of older adults who use homecare or other community services. In our ongoing study, we have undertaken a scoping literature review to identify the existing evidence and gaps for future research. We have also analysed a national dataset of the food and drink needs of older adults using community-based social care services in England.

In this workshop we will share preliminary findings from this study. In doing so, we will invite engagement and discussion of some of the challenges of how to frame, engage and communicate topics related to food and care, which involves practices and barriers to food that may not typically be considered (e.g. the need for support to eat/drink) in discourse about food.

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