Date of Graduation

5-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Degree Level

Undergraduate

Department

Nursing

Advisor

Dunn, Karee

Reader

Miller, Bettie

Second Reader

Aslin, Larry W.

Abstract

Context: Malnutrition proves to be a significant issue for hospitalized older adults. The number of physiological, social, and psychological problems they experience increases their risk for malnourishment, only worsening their admitting diagnoses. Research shows that social interaction is crucial to food intake. Many geriatric patients do not receive the interaction or encouragement they need while they eat. A hospital in Northwest Arkansas desired to prevent this negative cycle by implementing a volunteer program assisting older adults during meals. Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate this type of program for its effectiveness, determining if food intake increases with volunteer assistance. Design: A non-experimental, descriptive exploratory study design using a retrospective medical chart review was conducted to look at the differences in food intake of patients before and after their exposure to the program, as well as differences in food intake between patients receiving volunteer aid and those who did not. Setting: The study was conducted in a unit of a hospital specifically designed to care for older adults. Participants: The study utilized a convenience sample of all patients admitted to the same unit at the hospital. All were at least 65 years of age with no known swallowing difficulties and had the ability to cognitively interact with volunteers. Interventions: In this program, volunteers spent one uninterrupted hour with the patient providing any assistance needed and providing verbal encouragement to eat that is usually not received. Outcome Measures: Data was examined using descriptive statistics, specifically means. The data used in this study was nurse estimation of food intake in percentages. Since data was an estimate and because the sample size was expected to be small, a qualitative approach to exploring differences was utilized in lieu of quantitative data analysis. Results: Descriptive statistics showed an average increase of patient food intake by 15% after exposure to the program. Unaided patients average intake percentage only increased by 10%. These results show that not only do patients increase their food intake with a volunteer, but they also consumed more food on average than those who did not receive assistance. Conclusion: The results of this study support previous research showing the increase of food intake with socialization provided by volunteers. Further study should be conducted utilizing a larger sample size and multiple clinical settings to extend the research, making it applicable to a larger body of people. In the meantime, medical professionals should support the process of assisting older adults during their mealtimes, and they should take steps to provide this kind of assistance to their patients.

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