Some Seniors Starving in Hospitals
October 2, 2006
By Lucy Williams, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent
ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- People go to the hospital in hopes of improving their health. But elderly adults in hospitals may not get the nutrition they need to make such gains.
"Older people going into hospitals are often somewhat malnourished when they go in, and they come out malnourished," John Morley, M.D., of Saint Louis University School of Medicine in St. Louis, told Ivanhoe.
Recent research suggests 40 percent of older people are malnourished when admitted to a hospital. Once admitted, 60 percent of patients suffer from further nutritional decline.
Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia studied mealtime trends on two medical wards over a two-week span. They observed the eating patterns of 48 patients ages 65 and older. Only 15 percent of patients ate their entire meal. Thirty-one percent of patients left more than two-thirds of their meal. Physical difficulties and meal interruptions were the main challenges patients faced while eating.
The study shows over half of all patients had physical challenges when eating meals:
55 percent of patients had problems opening food
36 percent of patients had problems using cutlery
23 percent of patients were too far away from their food
18 percent of patients said their eating position was uncomfortable
The study shows patients receive frequent interruptions at mealtimes. Here are some of the patterns noted in the study:
19 percent of patients had a doctor's visit during mealtimes
51 percent of patients had mealtime interruptions by hospital staff
Three of the 48 patients were asked about their bowels during mealtime
Dr. Morley suggests nutrition issues often receive less priority than nursing care activities. The researchers recommend increased attention to proper nutrition because malnourishment is linked to poor health, slow recovery, and longer hospital stays. Food intake should be monitored more closely to ensure patients receive adequate nutrition.
"The average physician pays very little attention to the nutritional status of people when they go into the hospital," Dr. Morley said. "Medical schools have not trained people well to recognize that nutrition is important."
Researchers with the study recommend hospital staff take a more sensitive approach to mealtimes. Doctors' visits should be discouraged during mealtimes. Staff members should be careful to avoid sensitive discussion topics when patients are eating.
SOURCE: Ivanhoe interview with John Morley, M.D., Saint Louis University School of Medicine in St. Louis; The Journal of Clinical Nursing, October 2006;15:1221-1227
This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: http://www.ivanhoe.com/newsalert/.
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