Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Nurs Clin North Am. 2004 Sep;39(3):607-23.

Feeding and hydration issues for older adults with dementia.

Author information

  • 1College of Nursing, Medical University of South Carolina, 99 Jonathan Lucas Street, Charleston, SC 29425, USA.

Erratum in

  • Nurs Clin North Am. 2006 Mar;41(1):129.


All cultures dictate the need to feed the hungry and create rituals for almost every life passage around the consumption of food and beverage. Yet, in old age and among those who cannot advocate for themselves, mealtime is medicalized and demoted to an insignificant event without dignity or regard for individualized needs. Attention must be paid to not only what people eat, but how they eat, and how they are supported in that process. Kayser-Jones summarized the extensive findings of several ethnographic studies in nursing homes by noting the multi-factorial issues involved in delivering excellent care to all residents, especially those lacking an advocate. Her findings exposed how lack of staff education, inadequate staffing and supervision, disregard for personal and cultural preferences, lack of assessment for comorbid health problems, intake of food and fluids, dysphagia, and oral health problems all contributed to malnutrition and dehydration among the residents studied. This seminal set of studies, along with Dr. Kayser-Jones' testimony in US Congressional hearings directly affected the design of federal regulatory protocols to address malnutrition and dehydration. In an attempt to increase the number of staff available to assist at meals, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid issued a change in regulations on Sept. 26, 2003, allowing reimbursement for staff trained for a total of 8 hours to act as feeding assistants. This change is intended to, "provide more residents with help in eating and drinking and reduce the incidence of unplanned weight loss and dehydration". Although seen as answering some of the staffing ratio issues at meal times,this rule change has been criticized for not addressing the complexities of resident needs at meal times. Although offering food and fluid is time-consuming and requires special knowledge of physiological changes and empathy for persons whose behavior might be objectionable at times, it may be one of the few times during the day that the individual with dementia receives normalized social interaction. Thus, as in the care of all vulnerable persons with dementia, whether at home or in an institution, perhaps the greatest challenge and need is for nurses and other caregivers to provide a social environment that promotes individual dignity and comfort.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk