Eating well: Understanding and shaping the mealtime experience of older adults in residential care
Date: 22 February 2018
University of Exeter
PhD in Medical Studies
Background: Many interventions aim to alleviate well-documented problems of malnutrition in residential care homes and improve residents’ health and wellbeing. Despite some positive findings, little is known about how and why mealtime interventions might be effective, and in particular, what effects residents’ experiences of mealtimes ...
Background: Many interventions aim to alleviate well-documented problems of malnutrition in residential care homes and improve residents’ health and wellbeing. Despite some positive findings, little is known about how and why mealtime interventions might be effective, and in particular, what effects residents’ experiences of mealtimes have on health outcomes. Aim: The aim of this project was to gain an insight into residents’ experiences of mealtimes in order to inform the development of a mealtime intervention. By addressing the issues that impact on residents’ enjoyment of meals, interventions may target improvements in the health and wellbeing of residents more effectively. Methods: This thesis is comprised of three pieces of empirical work conducted using multiple methods. In a systematic review of stakeholder perceptions of mealtimes, five databases were searched from inception to November 2015, followed by thematic analysis of extracted data. In a second study, semi-structured interviews were conducted with eleven residents from four care homes in the South West UK. Thematic analysis was used to derive content and meaning from transcribed interviews. These studies informed the development of a staff-focussed training programme (study three) using the process of Intervention Mapping (IM) as a guide. The feasibility of this intervention was assessed using qualitative surveys and analysed using multiple methods. Fourteen staff from two care homes participated in the feasibility study, which investigated the deliverability of the training programme and the acceptability of its content. Findings: The systematic review and resident interview study revealed that the dining experience was a focal point for residents’ broader experiences of residing in a care home. Whilst meal quality and enjoyment impacted on the dining experience, the provision of care was pivotal in determining mealtime culture and resident agency within the home. This had implications for self-efficacy and social relationships, particularly in the context of transitioning from independent living to a care home community. These findings informed the development of a mealtime intervention, which was found to be deliverable and acceptable to staff. Conclusion: Mealtimes are a mainstay of life in a care home through which residents’ experiences are characterised, exemplified and magnified. Understanding how residents interact with one another, accommodating their preferences and encouraging autonomy may enhance their mealtime experiences. Evidence from the empirical work supports the development of interventions aimed at mealtime staff to improve resident self-efficacy. This thesis has established the necessary groundwork for a pilot trial and future definitive trial to assess resident (and staff) outcome measures including social (e.g., collective engagement) and psychological outcomes (e.g., wellbeing), as well as health outcomes (e.g., nutritional status).
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