Spring is in the air! With the arrival of a new season comes new junctures to enhance the intricate care provided to seniors. Many challenges emerged during this pandemic, but along with these challenges comes opportunity for new ideas and programming to help improve patient care and quality of life. One major area of concern that continues to “spring up” is unintentional weight loss.
Medication use, disease processes, cognitive impairments, social isolation, and depression are a few reasons why weight loss problems are often common in skilled nursing facilities. Left untreated, weight loss can lead to skin breakdown, confusion, and overall decline in function and quality of life. The risk and harm of weight loss has also been identified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as a trigger for focused infection control surveys.
Here are some ideas to SPRING into action against weight loss:
Shaped plates and colored dinnerware increase the vibrancy of meal presentation and help residents with cognitive impairment retain focus on meals, reduce frustration, and increase intake. Contrasting dinnerware is beneficial for those with visual impairments.
Promote healthy oral care. Oral care may be overlooked when discussing weight loss. Research shows that dental issues, ill-fitting dentures, chewing problems, and mouth pain can contribute to weight loss.
Refer residents with weight loss to rehab for screenings related to positioning needs, adaptive utensils, cognitive and communication strategy training, or any chewing or swallowing impairments.
Interview the resident and caregivers regarding all mealtime preferences, including food likes/dislikes, preferred dining location, ambiance options, and snacking habits. Residents’ meal preferences are distinct and different.
Nutrients! For residents experiencing weight loss, discuss fortification of meals with the resident’s physician and dietician. Recommendations may include fortified foods, additional supplements, frequent snacks, or increased portion sizes to maximize nutritional intake.
Grant flexibilities with mealtimes. Enable residents to have choices with how, when, and what they eat to promote patient-centered dining programs. Unfamiliar dining schedules, food choices, and mealtime settings cause disruptions in intake.
Spring brings with it new beginnings and a reminder of how rejuvenating change can be! Seasons change and so do the needs of the residents. Adjusting and changing dining culture based on the needs of the individual provides comfort, safety, and independence during meals. Patient-centered dining experiences are critical to fighting weight loss and improving patient satisfaction and quality of life.