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08.05.2020 | Original Article

Self-reported Swallowing and Nutrition Status in Community-Living Older Adults

Marie Jardine, Anna Miles, Jacqueline Allen
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More New Zealanders are forecast to grow older in the community, ranging in levels of abilities and needs. Many health conditions can affect swallowing function or nutrition status in older age. However, older adults may not be aware of risk factors and when to seek help. A nationwide survey was conducted of self-reported swallowing ability and nutrition status in community-living New Zealanders aged 65 years and older to assess whether undisclosed swallowing and nutrition problems exist. Respondents completed an amalgamated questionnaire including two validated screening tools: Eating Assessment Tool (EAT-10) and Seniors in the Community: Risk Evaluation for Eating and Nutrition (SCREEN-II). A convenience sample of 1020 adults aged 65–96 years old was obtained. Mean EAT-10 score was 2.15 (SD = 4.3); 22.1% scored above the normative score (3 or more). Mean SCREEN-II score was 48.50 (SD = 6.5); 46.9% scored below normal (< 50 for adults under 85 years old, < 49 for adults over 84 years old). EAT-10 scores significantly correlated with SCREEN-II scores (p < 0.001). Scores did not correlate with age or differ between age groups. Significantly more respondents with medical history associated with dysphagia disclosed swallowing and nutrition problems (p < 0.001). This data suggest increased prevalence of swallowing difficulties in older age is attributed to health conditions and medications, rather than ageing itself. Swallowing complaints from community-living older adults should not be ignored or attributed to the normal ageing process. This study supports routine nutrition screening in older adults.

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