Green, S.M., Martin, H.J., Roberts, H.C. and Aihie Sayer, A.
Can the use of volunteers improve mealtime care of adult patients or residents? A comprehensive literature review
[in special issue: Communications to the British Geriatrics Society Spring Scientific Meeting 1st–3rd April 2009, Bournemouth]
Age and Ageing, 38, supplement 3, . (doi:10.1093/ageing/afp144).
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Scope: malnutrition among older people in care settings is common and associated with
adverse outcomes. Poor standards of mealtime care are reported, with one in five
patients not receiving help with eating when required. We assessed the evidence
for volunteers improving mealtime care.
Search Methods: the literature was searched in August 2008 using databases; MEDLINE®, CINHAL®, BNI and EMBASE. This identified 21 potentially relevant studies. Studies
were selected if they described the use of volunteers to assist adults at mealtimes in institutions and the effect this had on outcomes including nutritional intake and
Appraisal: seven studies fulfilled the criteria for inclusion. The methodology of 5 of the 7 studies was unclear due to the brevity of the report bringing into question the validity.
Results: generally the review suggested the use of volunteers in mealtime care increased
satisfaction of patients, relatives, volunteers, and staff concerning meal-time assistance (assessed using methods such as questionnaires and focus groups). One study found that the mean meal intake of 34 patients assisted to eat by a volunteer was increased by 26% in comparison to a matched group assisted by nursing staff.
Conclusions: there is some evidence that volunteers can improve mealtime care of patients, however few well designed studies are reported. A detailed evaluation of the use of volunteers to improve the mealtime care in institutions, and any impact on patient health is required.
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