Open Access Research article

Nutritional status among older residents with dementia in open versus special care units in municipal nursing homes: an observational study

Carine Aukner1, Helene Dahl Eide2 and Per Ole Iversen3*

Author Affiliations

1 Atlantis Medical College, Oslo, Norway

2 Institute of Health, Nutrition and Management, Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences, Kjeller, Norway

3 Department of Nutrition, Institute of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Oslo, POB 1046 Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway

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BMC Geriatrics 2013, 13:26  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-13-26

Published: 14 March 2013



Undernutrition is widespread among institutionalised elderly, and people suffering from dementia are at particularly high risk. Many elderly with dementia live in open units or in special care units in nursing homes. It is not known whether special care units have an effect on the nutritional status of the residents. The aim of this study was therefore to examine the nutritional status of residents with dementia in both open units and in special care units.


Among Oslo’s 29 municipal nursing homes, 21 participated with 358 residents with dementia or cognitive impairment, of which 46% lived in special care units. Nutritional status was assessed using the Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool and anthropometry.


We found no differences (p > 0.05) in risk of undernutrition, body mass index, mid-upper arm muscle circumference or triceps skinfold thickness between residents in open units and those in special care units. Residents in special care units were significantly younger and stronger when measured with a hand-grip test.


We found no difference in nutritional status between nursing home residents with dementia/cognitive impairment in open units versus in special care units.

Dementia; Nursing home; Nutritional status; Open unit; Special care unit; Undernutrition