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Exploring the mealtime experience in residential care settings for older people: an observational study

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Abstract

Improving the mealtime experience in residential care can be a major facilitator in improving care, well‐being and QoL. Evidence suggests that, despite guidance on the subject of food, nutrition and hydration, there are still concerns. Although there is a range of methods to research and assess the quality of food provision, there is a challenge in capturing the experiences of those residents who are unable or unwilling to describe their feelings and experiences because of frailty, impaired communication or other vulnerability. The aim of this exploratory study was to capture and describe individual residents’ mealtime experience. In spring 2011, a small‐scale, observational study was carried out in seven dining settings in four residential care homes in Manchester. An adapted dementia care mapping tool was used alongside field notes. Observations showed two major differences in the way the mealtimes were organised: ‘pre‐plated’ and ‘family‐style’ (where either bowls of food are placed in the centre of the table or food is served directly from a hotplate by a chef). These two styles of service are discussed in relation to the emerging themes of ‘task versus resident‐centred mealtimes’, ‘fostering resident independence’ and ‘levels of interaction’. Although improving mealtimes alone is not enough to improve quality of life in care homes, findings showed that relatively small changes to mealtime delivery can potentially have an impact on resident well‐being in these homes. Observation is a useful method of engaging residents in care settings for older people who may not otherwise be able to take part in research.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2013

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