BACKGROUND - Home enteral nutrition (HEN) is most frequently prescribed for older adults. Medicare reimbursement policy limits in-home nursing visits, and in-home professional nutrition services are restricted to those patients with diabetes or predialysis kidney disease. Most older adults receiving HEN rely on informal (family) caregivers to provide HEN care. The purpose of this study was to apply care process theory to identify and investigate variables related to health care outcomes of HEN in a sample of older adults dependent on informal caregivers. We assessed relationships among patient characteristics, the HEN regimen prescription and adherence, formal provider involvement, and health care outcomes.
METHODS - In-home interviews were conducted with a multiethnic (14 white, 8 Hispanic, 7 African American, 1 Asian) sample of 30 older adults (mean = 68.4 years) during their first 3 months of HEN (mean = 1.83 months).
RESULTS - Daily enteral intake averaged 1596 +/- 553 kcal. Gastrointestinal complications, occurring in up to 63.3% of patients, interrupted daily infusions. Further, one-third reported tube clogging or leaking, and one-third had tube displacement. Water intake was half of calculated need and associated with decreased urination (p = .001). Average weight change was -4.35 pounds (p = .001), and 17 patients had body mass indexes (BMIs) <18.5. Women had more complications (p = .004), lower enteral intake (p = .009), and lower BMIs (p = .02). Only 6 patients saw dietitians in follow-up care. Complications and type of feeding tube were associated with unscheduled health care visits and readmissions (p < .05).
CONCLUSION - The efficacy of HEN in older adults (ie, reversal of malnutrition and improvements in health, functionality and quality of life) requires more frequent monitoring, reassessment, and intervention from a highly skilled multidisciplinary team that includes dietitians.