Position of the American Dietetic Association: Liberalization of the diet prescription improves quality of life for older adults in long-term care
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) that the quality of life and nutritional status of older residents in long-term care facilities may be enhanced by liberalization of the diet prescription. The Association advocates the use of qualified dietetics professionals to assess and evaluate the need for medical nutrition therapy according to each person's individual medical condition, needs, desires, and rights. In 2003, ADA designated aging as its second "emerging" area. Nutrition care in long-term settings must meet two goals: maintenance of health and promotion of quality of life. The Nutrition Care Process includes assessment of nutritional status through development of an individualized nutrition intervention plan. Medical nutrition therapy must balance medical needs and individual desires and maintain quality of life. The recent paradigm shift from restrictive institutions to vibrant communities for older adults requires dietetics professionals to be open-minded when assessing risks vs benefits of therapeutic diets, especially for frail older adults. Food is an essential component of quality of life; an unacceptable or unpalatable diet can lead to poor food and fluid intake, resulting in weight loss and undernutrition and a spiral of negative health effects. Facilities are adopting new attitudes toward providing care. "Person-centered" or "resident-centered care" involves residents in decisions about schedules, menus, and dining locations. Allowing residents to participate in diet-related decisions can provide nutrient needs, allow alterations contingent on medical conditions, and simultaneously increase the desire to eat and enjoyment of food, thus decreasing the risks of weight loss, undernutrition, and other potential negative effects of poor nutrition and hydration.