The effect of a breakfast program on nutritional status, quality of life, and health care use among frail homebound older adults

Elizabeth Ann Gollub, Florida International University


The population of older adults is rapidly increasing, creating a need for community services that assist vulnerable older adults in maintaining independence and quality of life. Recent evidence confirms the importance of food and nutrition in reaching this objective. The Elderly Nutrition Program (ENP) is part of a system of federally funded community based programs, authorized through the Older Americans Act. ENP services include the home-delivered meals program, which targets frail homebound older adults at nutritional risk. Traditionally, ENP services provide a noon meal 5 days/week. This study evaluated the impact of expanding the home-delivered meals service to include breakfast + lunch, on the nutritional status, quality of life and health care utilization of program participants. This cross-sectional study compared 2 groups. The Breakfast group (n = 167) received a home-delivered breakfast + lunch, 5 days/week. The Comparison group (n = 214) received lunch 5 days/week. Participants, recruited from 5 ENP programs, formed a geographically, racially/ethnically diverse sample. Participants ranged in age from 60–100 years, they were functionally limited, at high nutritional risk, low income, and they lived alone and had difficulty shopping or preparing food. Participant data were collected through in-home interviews and program records. A 24-hour food recall and information on participant demographics, malnutrition risk, functional status, health care use, and applicable quality of life factors were obtained. Service and cost data were collected from program administrators. Breakfast group participants had greater energy/nutrient intakes (p < .05), fewer health care contacts (p < .05), and greater quality of life measured as food security (p < .05) and fewer depressive symptoms (p < .05), than comparison group participants. These benefits were achieved for $1.30/person/day. The study identified links from improvements in nutritional status to enhanced quality of life to diminished health care utilization and expenditures. A model of health, loneliness, food enjoyment, food insecurity, and depression as factors contributing to quality of life for this population, was proposed and tested (p < .01). The breakfast service is an inexpensive addition to traditional home-delivered meals services and can improve the lives of frail homebound older adults. Agencies should be encouraged to expand meals programs to include a breakfast service.

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Recommended Citation

Gollub, Elizabeth Ann, "The effect of a breakfast program on nutritional status, quality of life, and health care use among frail homebound older adults" (2002). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3049782.