Malnutrition is a serious concern in hospitals and is known to be associated with increased complications for patients, increased hospital costs and length of stay. Trained volunteers that assist ‘at risk’ and malnourished patients at lunch meals have been shown to effectively increase nutritional intake in a suburban hospital in Sydney. The pilot study reported here aimed to evaluate and share learnings from a similar, newly implemented program, comparing energy and macronutrient intakes on days with no volunteer assistance, to days with volunteers.
Dietary intakes were determined by visual estimation of meal trays before and after meals, for two days without volunteers, and two days with volunteer assistance at lunch. Macronutrient and energy intakes were compared and data such as weight, height, diet type and medical history were obtained from medical records. Questionnaires were completed by nurses and volunteers in regards to their views and experiences with the program.
Eight patients (83±4.5 years) participated in the study. When volunteers were present at lunch, the average macronutrient and energy intakes increased, though not statistically significantly. The mean increases were 316kJ (p=0.175) for energy, 3.1g (p=0.468) for protein, 1.4g (p=0.418) for fat and 11.6g (p=0.084) for carbohydrates. Non-significant increases in macronutrients were also noted for the average daily intakes.
Although not statistically significant, energy and macronutrient intakes increased when volunteers were present. The implementation of a volunteer feeding assistance program is one strategy to assist dietary intakes but requires a ready team of volunteers, training, acceptance and significant time to develop.