Annals of Long-Term Care Releases Findings on Mealtime Best Practices

Angie SzumlinskiHealth, Studies

Clinicians and researchers have been providing the medical care community with experience and research that helps LTC facilities create detailed nutrition plans for a long a time, yet, malnutrition continues to be highly prevalent in LTC residents. This condition further degenerates the condition of often already enfeebled patients by decreasing quality of life, lowering functional status, reducing the wound healing capabilities of the body, overall increasing mortality risk.

Malnutrition continues to be highly prevalent in LTC residents. Click To Tweet

ALTC undertook a new study to find a new set of best practices or to correct old ones associated with mealtimes that would reduce the rate of malnutrition within LTCs. One of the sources for the study was a 2017 review. The review recorded the attitudes, perceptions, and experiences of mealtimes among staff and/or residents at facilities for older adults. The four most important factors for an enjoyable mealtime noted were organizational and staff support, resident agency, mealtime culture, and meal quality and enjoyment. Sadly, only 4 of the 15 studies involved in the review included resident opinions. When looking to promote food and fluid intake in LTC, the perspectives of all stakeholders are important. To focus more on the perspective of the receivers of care, ALTC began discussion groups with residents and their families about what makes mealtime enjoyable.

Given a choice of ten options that described what the research team deemed valuable qualities of a mealtime, the residents picked sensory properties of food and choice and variety of food as their top two options. Dining environment, adequate time to eat/available staff assistance, and hospitality and meal-time logistics all came in tied at third.

Residents of long-term care say sensory properties of food and choice and variety of food are the most important qualities of mealtime, while family members considered dining environment as most important. Click To Tweet

Families, meanwhile, focused more on the ambiance and dining environment, including the perceived attitudes and skill of the staff while they assisted residents, before shifting to match the residents’ rankings. The priorities ranked highest by the I-Dine experts (aforementioned clinicians and researchers) were much lower for both residents and families. I-Dine experts instead focused on things like the safety of the food choices provided and the threat each posed of aspiration.

It should be noted that the study was done on a relatively small sample of unknown demographics.