Malnutrition screening of older adults in the community setting: Practices reported by Australian dietitians

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To explore malnutrition screening practices by dietitians working with community dwelling older adults in Australia.


A descriptive cross-sectional online survey of dietitians providing dietetic care to older adults (aged ≥65 years) was conducted in November to December 2014 using a three-part 25-item questionnaire with scaled, closed and open-ended questions.


One hundred and thirty-three community dietitians participated in the survey. Seventy-seven percent of them reported malnutrition screening was conducted in the workplace and this was highest in government organisations. The majority of dietitians (75%) reported a screening tool was used and the Malnutrition Screening Tool was most commonly used. Independent of level of experience, the majority of dietitians considered malnutrition screening important and agreed with the need for routine screening. Sixty-six percent of dietitians reported that clients screened and found to be at risk of malnutrition frequently refused nutrition assessment.


Reported malnutrition screening practices varied considerably across all organisations and states. Although routine screening for malnutrition risk is recommended, refusal for nutritional assessment after positive screening is common and requires further investigation. It is not clear how the term ‘malnutrition’ is perceived by the elderly and further investigation into their perceptions would be useful, particularly as offer for nutrition care is frequently declined.

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