Environmental Considerations for Improving Nutritional Status in Older Adults with Dementia: A Narrative Review


      As the number of older adults in the United States continues to grow, the American health care system will face the unique challenge of providing care for these individuals, including many who will be diagnosed with some form of dementia. As dementia progresses, patients require increasing amounts of care and nutrient intake usually declines. This tends to result in weight loss, malnutrition, and increased morbidity and mortality. Various interventions have been developed with the goal of improving meal intake and reducing unintentional weight loss in patients with dementia. Several studies have shown that meal intake improves with the provision of adequate assistance, either from staff members or from volunteer feeding assistants. Some studies have focused on the method of meal service and its influence on meal intake and nutrition status. Both buffet-style and family-style dining have shown promising results in terms of improving meal intake and quality of life among older adults in long-term-care settings. Other environment-related interventions include improving lighting and visual contrast, altering the dining room to more closely resemble a home-style setting, using the aroma of food to stimulate appetite, using routine seating arrangements, and using relaxing or familiar music in the dining room to provide a calmer environment. The purpose of this review is to evaluate the research on environment-based interventions to improve nutritional status among older adults with dementia, to describe potential for practical applications, and to identify gaps in the existing literature whereon further research is warranted.


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      J. W. Douglas is a doctoral degree student, Department of Human Nutrition and Hospitality Management, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.


      J. C. Lawrence is an associate professor and chair, Department of Human Nutrition and Hospitality Management, The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.