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Dietitian boosts older people's health and wellbeing

Nutrition clinic helps to improve quality of life for older people.

Older man standing in front of home
SydneyConnect Image: Kevin McCutcheon

Kevin McCutcheon was lost when his wife died.

"Maureen gave me a purpose in life. She was perfect. She was worth solid gold," the retired manufacturing engineer, 81, said of his wife of more than 50 years.

"When she died, I was moping about, thinking 'what's left in life?' I wasn't eating properly and I dropped a lot of weight. There wasn't a lot of meat on my bones."

His GP referred him to the Malnutrition Intervention Clinic at Concord Hospital – a nutrition clinic which helps older people eat well and remain healthy for longer.

It's Dietitians Week and this year's theme is "Dietitians Improve Lives."

The Dietitians Association of Australia states research shows about 50 per cent of older Australians are either at risk of malnutrition or are malnourished.
"Eating well is very important as people become older. It can help them stay fit, mobile and independent," Susan Bloomfield-Stone, the dietitian who runs the Malnutrition Intervention Clinic, said.

She's one of more than 80 dietitians and 20 dietitian assistants who are employed in a range of different practice areas in Sydney Local Health District.

Susan empowers older people living in the community to make changes that'll enhance their health and wellbeing.

"As people age, missing meals and poor appetite can be common. Eating can feel like an effort and weight loss may occur. This can make it difficult to stay well and strong enough to keep doing everyday tasks and it can increase people's risk of falls or sickness," she said.

At the first Clinic appointment, she conducts a nutrition assessment and helps people to address any challenges they may face.

"It can be as simple as encouraging them to eat a variety of foods that are high in protein and energy,  setting goals to eat meals more regularly including morning and afternoon tea, and to help them experience the joy food can bring again," she said.

With Susan's help, Kevin has learnt about the value of healthy eating. He's added more nutritious food to his daily diet and makes sure he eats meals regularly.

Susan also encouraged him to volunteer at a local native plant nursery where he's met others with similar interests.

While his weight has fluctuated over time, Kevin credits Susan's support with helping him to live at home on his own.

"I don't want to sell and move away. Everywhere around me I have memories of Maureen and our family. How can you walk away from that?

"Susan has had a major impact on my life. She's educated and motivated me to make better food choices. Her guidance has meant I've been able to stay in my own home."