NURSING HOMES: New Initative Aims to Curb Malnutrition
The Nutrition Screening Initiative, a coalition of health care organizations led by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Dietetic Association and the National Council on Aging, launched a new initiative yesterday to promote better nutrition among nursing home residents. The initiative centers around Nutrition Care Alerts -- guides to aid immediate caregivers in identifying and treating nutrition-related problems. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said, "Today we begin an effort that can improve the health and lives of hundreds of thousands of older Americans. ... I can say these Nutrition Care Alerts are an enormous step forward." The guides follow a report from the Senate Special Committee on Aging and the General Accounting Office that found "nursing home residents suffering unnecessarily from pressure ulcers, malnutrition and dehydration." Special Committee on Aging Chair Sen. Charles Grassley (D-IA) said, "We are very pleased that the Nutrition Screening Initiative has responded so quickly and effectively to the urgent need we identified for better nutrition care for the 1.5 million Americans in nursing facilities." HCFA has pledged its support in testing the guides to assess their efficacy, and the Ross Products Division of Abbot Laboratories has agreed to lend its distribution network. Bill Stadtlander, vice president and general manager of Medical Nutritional Products, said, "We hope that by mobilizing our extensive distribution network, we can speed the delivery of the Care Alerts ... to improve the health of thousands of older Americans" (release, 8/5).
A study published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society estimates that two out of five nursing home residents are malnourished, which means they are "prone to more infections and diseases, their injuries take longer to heal, surgeries carry more risk for them, and their hospital stays are longer and more expensive." American Dietetic Association President Ann Gallagher noted that "50% of residents are malnourished when they arrive," and attributed the problem to "advancing disease, immobility or high turnover of nursing home staff" (Ramirez, Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/6).