Statement of Problem: Malnutrition
A serious problem exists concerning the malnutrition of older adults living in long term care in Canada (Keller et al., 2017). Malnutrition is a key health issue effecting older adults and occurs when one or more essential nutrients are lacking (Brown & Jones, 2009; Singh et al., 2014). Malnutrition, with a prevalence rate of up to 85 % in long term care affects all body systems is harmful to physical function, psychological wellbeing and disease outcomes (Allard et al., 2004; Brown & Jones, 2009). The complications of malnutrition include increased risk of falls, infections, skin breakdown and mortality: malnutrition also contributes to depression and reduced quality of life (Allard et al., 2004; Jones, 2009; Singh et al, 2014). The problem is complicated by an aging population in Newfoundland & Labrador and it is predicted that by 2036, 2 out of 5 residents will be 65 years or older (Davis, 2017). Many of these residents will require long term care and a solution to this problem must be addressed immediately (Keller et al., 2017).
Factors Contributing to the Malnutrition Problem
There are a number of factors that contribute to malnutrition in long term care residents including changes in mental status, altered taste and smell, agitation and dementia (Walton et al., 2008; Keller, 2016). In addition, residents have physical limitations including lack of feeding assistance and encouragement, difficulty with packaging, using cutlery and setting up meals (Allard et al., 2004; Keller, 2016; Walton et al., 2008). Increased nursing workload and inadequate staffing can prevent ideal assistance and even residents with good appetites may not receive optimal nutritional care because of assistance (Huang, Dutkowski, Fuller & Walton, 2015). Reported barriers to care include lack of time and training, higher priorities and interruptions, and less time for social interaction (Allard et al., 2004; Brown & Jones, 2009; Huang et al., 2015).
Creative Approaches to Address the Malnutrition Problem
The problem of malnutrition in residents is both preventable and treatable using a multifaceted approach considering interpersonal and environmental factors and focusing not only on what the residents eat but the way they eat (Keller, 2016; Lorefalt & Wilhelmsson, 2012). For some residents, meal times are the highlight of the day and should be filled with social interaction, development of relationships and a sense of engagement and connection (Keller, 2016). Trained volunteer eating assistants have demonstrated improved food intake and assisted nursing staff on provide optimal nutritional care in a timely and comfortable manner (Keller, 2016; Walton et al., 2008). Nursing staff, volunteers and residents have all reported a high level of satisfaction with feeding assistant programs and...