Effectiveness of Mealtime Interventions on Behavior Symptoms of People With Dementia Living in Care Homes: A Systematic Review

South West Peninsula
Published Date: 1 Mar 2014


Elderly residents with dementia commonly exhibit increased agitation at mealtimes. This interferes with eating and can be distressing for both the individual and fellow residents. This review examines the effectiveness of mealtime interventions aimed at improving behavioral symptoms in elderly people living with dementia in residential care.


Systematic review.

Data sources

Medline, PsycINFO, Embase, HMIC, AMED (OvidSP); CDSR, CENTRAL, DARE (Cochrane Library, Wiley); CINAHL (EBSCOhost); British Nursing Index (NHS Evidence); ASSIA (ProQuest); Social Science Citation Index (Web of Knowledge); EThOS (British Library); Social Care Online and OpenGrey from inception to November 2012. Forward and backward citation chases, hand searches of other review articles identified in the search, and key journals.

Types of study

All comparative studies were included. Articles were screened for inclusion independently by 2 reviewers. Data extraction and quality appraisal were performed by one reviewer and checked by a second with discrepancies resolved by discussion with a third if necessary. Data were not suitable for meta-analysis so narrative synthesis was carried out.


A total of 6118 articles were identified in the original search. Eleven articles were finally included. Mealtime interventions were categorized into 4 types: music, changes to food service, dining environment alteration, and group conversation. Study quality was poor, making it difficult to reach firm conclusions. Although all studies showed a trend in favor of the intervention, only 6 reported a statistically significant improvement in behavioral symptoms. Four studies suggest cumulative or lingering effects of music on agitated and aggressive behaviors.


There is some evidence to suggest that mealtime interventions improve behavioral symptoms in elderly people with dementia living in residential care, although weak study designs limit the generalizability of the findings. Well designed, controlled trials are needed to further understand the utility of mealtime interventions in this setting.

Rebecca Whear