Weight Monitoring in Aged Care

Chinese nurse weighing elderly patient

We all know the importance of maintaining good nutrition in our residents. A simple but effective way to check residents’ nutritional status is to track weight over time. Unplanned weight loss is linked to poor clinical outcomes, including: malnutrition, pressure injuries, hip fractures and death. Therefore, monitoring for unplanned weight loss is an important quality indicator in Aged Care.


How often should residents be weight?
All residents should be weighed on admission and at least once a month.
A resident at increased nutritional risk should be weighed more frequently.

By tracking your resident’s weight you can identify weight trends. The best way to do this is to record on a weight chart.

weight-chart

(Email us if you would like a complimentary copy of our weight chart).


When does weight loss become a concern?
• As a rule of thumb, we would consider a weight loss of 3 kilograms or more over a three month period to be significant. So, if Ben weighed 75kg in January, and by April his weight was down to 71.5kg, we should find out why.
• Another way is to calculate percentage weight loss. A 5% weight loss over 3 months is significant. (Our Cheat Sheet takes the hard work out of calculating percentage weight loss. Cheat sheet) For instance, Mary weighed 60kg in May and was down to 56.9kg in August – the cheat sheet shows us that she has had a weight loss of more than 5% .
• If the resident is consistently losing weight over time. Even a small monthly weight loss adds up. It is always a good idea to look back at the admission weight. When Susan was admitted 3 years ago she weighed 75kg and her weight is now down to 63kg. Although Susan is still in the ‘healthy weight range’ she has been steadily losing weight since admission and we need to find out why.


Practical tips
• Many residents are unsteady on their feet and are not able to stand on a scale. A chair scale is a safe and reliable option for weighing older people. A hoist may be needed for residents who are not able to transfer safely to the chair scale. Another option is a wheelchair scale, which provides a convenient and safe method of weighing residents while they remain seated on their wheelchair.

• Train care staff responsible for weighing residents to ensure that standardised procedures are followed.

• It is important to calibrate the scale regularly (follow manufacturer’s guidelines).

• Although it is ideal to weigh first thing in the morning, this is not always practical. The important thing is to always weigh residents at the same time of day.

• Establish a routine for weighing residents e.g. the first Sunday of the month. Make sure that this recorded in the calendar, and any weight changes need to be followed up by senior staff.

• Weigh residents in light clothing, preferably no shoes or jackets.

• If there is a large unexplained weight gain, consider the following:
o measurement error – reweigh the next day
o fluid overload or oedema – alert the GP
o change in medication (e.g. diurectics)
o has the resident had subcut fluids charted?

• If there is a large unexplained weight loss, consider the following:
o measurement error – reweigh the next day
o dehydration
o change in medication (e.g. diurectics)


What to do if resident has lost weight ?
o Alert the Doctor that resident is losing weight.
o Refer to a Dietitian has lost more than 5% weight in the past month .

Contact us for more information

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