Prolonging mealtimes could lead to health complications for LTC residents, study suggests

Long-term care providers should be aware that residents' chewing and swallowing ability might be worse at the end of a prolonged meal, increasing the risk of aspiration pneumonia and other conditions, suggest recently published findings.

The 23 study participants who were older than 70 had degraded oral function after eating continuously for half an hour, the Japan-based investigators determined. The older individuals performed worse than a control group of younger people on a number of post-meal tests, such as the ability to repeat the syllable “pa.”

While the participants were not long-term care residents, the study simulated conditions in which a person would be continuously fed by an aide, the authors wrote.

The results call into question “many guidelines that advise slow hand-feeding in older patients with dysphagia,” noted a summary of the findings in the Annals of Long-Term Care. Caregivers should be aware that chewing and swallowing can become increasingly difficult for residents, and they might be wise to avoid long mealtimes and a tiring feeding pace.

Complete findings are available online in Clinical Interventions in Aging.