Background: Although nutritional supplements are widely prescribed in hospital and community settings compliance with supplements and factors affecting compliance are not well understood.
Aims: The aims of this study were therefore to examine compliance, factors that influence compliance, views and attitudes of elderly patients and their health professionals on prescribed oral nutritional supplements.
Methods: Forty medically stable hospitalised elderly patients prescribed nutritional supplements by a hospital dietician after nutritional screening had their compliance with supplement intake measured. Sixteen patients prescribed nutritional supplements and their health professionals had their views and attitudes on the factors that influence compliance with supplements intake explored using qualitative face-to- face interviews and postal questionnaires respectively. Qualitative data analysis adhered to the principles of grounded theory and followed the 'Framework' approach. Quantitative data were entered on to a standard spreadsheet and simple descriptive statistics was examined.
Results: A total of 40 hospitalised elderly patient (Age range 60-91 yrs; mean age 78 years; 20 female); 24 doctors, 13 dietician and 33 nurses were recruited. The main finding of this study was that compliance with prescribed nutritional supplements was low in hospital and in the community. Only 43% of the study population consumed more than 80% of the prescribed amount. Factors that affected compliance included flavour, taste, texture and predictability of the supplements as well as personal preferences and life style. Health professionals dealing with elderly patients have wide-range and different views on the criteria used to prescribe nutritional supplements and factors affecting their subsequent intake.
Conclusion: Compliance with prescribed nutritional supplements was low in hospital and in the community. Elderly patients and their health professionals have wide-range and different views on factors that influence compliance with nutritional supplements.