A study of the nutritional experiences of older people in hospital

Pollitt, Samantha Jean (2003) A study of the nutritional experiences of older people in hospital. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Knowing what it feels like for older patient's eating in hospital is central to nurses giving quality nutritional care. The aim of this study was to gain insight into the
phenomena of nutritional care from the patients' perspective, by exploring older people's experiences and feelings in relation to the provision of food in hospital.
A descriptive study design was employed to enable patient's own words to offer insight into their experiences. Data were collected from individual interviews with fifteen patients, and analysed according to the principles of phenomenology.

Four key themes emerged from the data: Making choices, anticipation, eating behaviour, and appreciation. The findings are based on informant's descriptions of the specific themes, and their general feeling of each theme being experienced either positively or negatively, and indicate patients' experience of eating was an 'evolving process', termed the 'eating process continuum', that began even before patients received their food. This process was affected by issues such as the variety of foods offered, the content of the meals and the nursing care given at mealtimes. The results of this study will inform nursing practice by describing the participants' experiences from their own viewpoint, and may assist nurses to identify patients at potential risk of nutritional deficiency using the 'eating process continuum' as a framework.

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