Food and drink are important determinants of physical and social health in care home residents. This study explored whether a pragmatic methodology including routinely collected data was feasible in UK care homes, to describe the health, wellbeing and nutritional status of care home residents and assess effects of changed provision of food and drink at three care homes on residents' falls (primary outcome), anaemia, weight, dehydration, cognitive status, depression, lipids and satisfaction with food and drink provision.
We measured health, wellbeing and nutritional status of 120 of 213 residents of six care homes in Norfolk, UK. An intervention comprising improved dining atmosphere, greater food choice, extended restaurant hours, and readily available snacks and drinks machines was implemented in three care homes. Three control homes maintained their previous system. Outcomes were assessed in the year before and the year after the changes.
Use of routinely collected data was partially successful, but loss to follow up and levels of missing data were high, limiting power to identify trends in the data.
This was a frail older population (mean age 87, 71% female) with multiple varied health problems. During the first year 60% of residents had one or more falls, 40% a wound care visit, and 40% a urinary tract infection. 45% were on diuretics, 24% antidepressants, and 43% on psychotropic medication.
There was a slight increase in falls from year 1 to year 2 in the intervention homes, and a much bigger increase in control homes, leading to a statistically non-significant 24% relative reduction in residents' rate of falls in intervention homes compared with control homes (adjusted rate ratio 0.76, 95% CI 0.57 to 1.02, p = 0.06).
Care home residents are frail and experience multiple health risks. This intervention to improve food and drink provision was well received by residents, but effects on health indicators (despite the relative reduction in falls rate) were inconclusive, partly due to problems with routine data collection and loss to follow up. Further research with more homes is needed to understand which, if any, components of the intervention may be successful.
Trial registration: ISRCTN86057119.