Prevention of Unintentional Weight Loss in Nursing Home Residents

A Controlled Trial of Feeding Assistance

Published In: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, v. 56, no. 8, Aug. 2008, p. 1466-1473

Posted on RAND.org on August 01, 2008

by Sandra Simmons, Emmett B. Keeler, Xiaohui Zhuo, Kelly A. Hickey, Hui-wen Sato, John Schnelle

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OBJECTIVES: To determine the effects of a feeding assistance intervention on food and fluid intake and body weight. DESIGN: Crossover controlled trial. SETTING: Four skilled nursing homes (NHs). PARTICIPANTS: Seventy-six long-stay NH residents at risk for unintentional weight loss. INTERVENTION: Research staff provided feeding assistance twice per day during or between meals, 5 days per week for 24 weeks. MEASUREMENTS: Research staff independently weighed residents at baseline and monthly during a 24-week intervention and 24-week control period. Residents' food and fluid intake and the amount of staff time spent providing assistance to eat was assessed for 2 days at baseline and 3 and 6 months during each 24-week period. RESULTS: The intervention group showed a significant increase in estimated total daily caloric intake and maintained or gained weight, whereas the control group showed no change in estimated total daily caloric intake and lost weight over 24 weeks. The average amount of staff time required to provide the interventions was 42 minutes per person per meal and 13 minutes per person per between-meal snack, versus usual care, during which residents received, on average, 5 minutes of assistance per person per meal and less than 1 minute per person per snack. CONCLUSION: Two feeding assistance interventions are efficacious in promoting food and fluid intake and weight gain in residents at risk for weight loss. Both interventions require more staff time than usual NH care. The delivery of snacks between meals requires less time than mealtime assistance and thus may be more practical to implement in daily NH care practice.

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