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Sunday 27th May 2018

Happy eating, happy residents

5th May 2006

05052006_mealtime.jpgResearchers in the Netherlands have assessed the effect of eating together 'family style' on the quality of life of nursing home residents without dementia.

Nursing homes residents not only face physical deterioration but loss of independence, privacy, and a familiar environment. These factors lead to high levels of depression and loneliness and a low perceived quality of life. Providing a convivial and social environment at mealtimes for such residents improves their quality of life and physical performance, a study published on bmj.com finds.

Mealtimes in nursing homes give an opportunity to integrate physical care with measures to improve quality of life. However, in most nursing homes meals are individually served on trays in a non-stimulating social environment.

The theory for the research in the Netherlands was that quality of life, physical performance, and body weight would remain stable among residents offered family style mealtimes but would decline in those receiving the usual pre-plated service.

Five Dutch nursing homes and a total of 282 residents took part in the study. Each nursing home had a control ward and an intervention ward. Control wards maintained the pre-plated service, whereas the intervention wards introduced social family style mealtimes. All meals were similar in nutrient content and weight. The intervention lasted for six months, with results adjusted for age, sex, and length of stay.

Family style mealtimes prevented a decline in physical performance and body weight of residents and improved quality of life.

Although this study excluded residents with dementia, the results support earlier research that found family style mealtimes improved the mood of nursing home residents with dementia. The authors believe that their conclusion may be extended to all nursing home residents.

The authors say that this was a simple intervention that did not need extra staff, or increase workload or costs. With motivated staff, this programme is easy to achieve on a low budget.

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