Family in Rehabilitation, Empowering Carers for Improved Malnutrition Outcomes: Protocol for the FREER Pilot Study

Skye Marshall, Barbara S van der Meij, Rachel Milte, Clare E Collins, Marian Ae de van der Schueren, Mark Banbury, Molly M Warner, Elizabeth Isenring

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BACKGROUND: Interventions to improve the nutritional status of older adults and the integration of formal and family care systems are critical research areas to improve the independence and health of aging communities and are particularly relevant in the rehabilitation setting.

OBJECTIVE: The primary outcome aimed to determine if the FREER (Family in Rehabilitation: EmpowERing Carers for improved malnutrition outcomes) intervention in malnourished older adults during and postrehabilitation improve nutritional status, physical function, quality of life, service satisfaction, and hospital and aged care admission rates up to 3 months postdischarge, compared with usual care. Secondary outcomes evaluated include family carer burden, carer services satisfaction, and patient and carer experiences. This pilot study will also assess feasibility and intervention fidelity to inform a larger randomized controlled trial.

METHODS: This protocol is for a mixed-methods two-arm historically-controlled prospective pilot study intervention. The historical control group has 30 participants, and the pilot intervention group aims to recruit 30 patient-carer pairs. The FREER intervention delivers nutrition counseling during rehabilitation, 3 months of postdischarge telehealth follow-up, and provides supportive resources using a novel model of patient-centered and carer-centered nutrition care. The primary outcome is nutritional status measured by the Scored Patient-Generated Subjective Global Assessment Score. Qualitative outcomes such as experiences and perceptions of value will be measured using semistructured interviews followed by thematic analysis. The process evaluation addresses intervention fidelity and feasibility.

RESULTS: Recruitment commenced on July 4, 2018, and is ongoing with eight patient-carer pairs recruited at the time of manuscript submission.

CONCLUSIONS: This research will inform a larger randomized controlled trial, with potential for translation to health service policies and new models of dietetic care to support the optimization of nutritional status across a continuum of nutrition care from rehabilitation to home.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry Number (ACTRN) 12618000338268; (Archived by WebCite at


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12647
Number of pages9
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2019


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