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J Gerontol Nurs. 2013 Sep;39(9):18-22. doi: 10.3928/00989134-20130614-01. Epub 2013 Jun 21.

Mealtime assistance for hospitalized older adults: a report on the SPOONS volunteer program.

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Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, T32 Trainee, Center for Outcomes and Effectiveness Research and Education, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.


Mealtime assistance may be necessary to prevent declines in hospitalized older adults' nutritional well-being. This article reports the implementation of the Support for and Promotion Of Optimal Nutritional Status (SPOONS) volunteer assistance program. Patients were 65 and older, admitted to the Acute Care for Elders Unit at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, and in need of mealtime assistance. There were 236 documented patient-volunteer encounters at which social interaction (n = 217; 92%), assistance with tray set-up (n = 162; 69%), and prompting to eat (n = 161; 68%), among other activities, were performed. Mean time of interaction was 47.8 minutes, with an average estimated cost savings of $11.94 per encounter had the service been provided by a patient care technician and $26 per encounter had it been provided by an RN. This demonstration of the SPOONS program should be followed up with an evaluation of its effectiveness.

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