Practices related to oral nutrition supplement (ONS) use were examined in elderly people living in long-term care (LTC) facilities.
Thirteen LTC facilities within a large regional health authority participated, and 17 people responsible for prescribing ONS in their facilities were interviewed, using a key informant telephone survey. A survey on ONS practice was modified, pilot tested, and used.
Oral nutrition supplements were primarily prescribed by nursing staff (59%), followed by physicians, registered dietitians, or other staff; ONS use was prescribed for decreased intake, unintentional weight loss, or wound healing. Various ONS products (e.g., Ensure, Boost, or Resource 2.0) were prescribed. Only 18% of respondents reported using alternative food options first to supplement nutritional intake, before introducing ONS. In terms of follow-up and evaluation, the measures of improvement included weight gain, wound healing, or improved well-being; reasons for discontinuation included weight gain, increased intake, or death.
Within LTC settings, the prescription and monitoring of ONS vary considerably. Evidence-based guidelines for the prescription and monitoring of ONS and for the use of a food-first strategy should be developed, implemented, and evaluated to optimize the nutritional health of the elderly in LTC facilities.