Conference Abstracts

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What is it that makes mealtimes enjoyable for residents living with dementia?

McDonald, T. A. & van Camp, L., 2007

ACERBAC Conference, La Trobe University, Victoria.


Background: It has been well-established in the literature that with the progression of dementia there is a concurrent decline in the ability of the person to feed. A decline in feeding ability inevitably leads to an increasing dependence on care staff to provide assistance during mealtimes.

Mealtimes and eating are an important part of daily life, intimately linked to culture and background and an important opportunity for social interaction. As assistance becomes required during mealtimes, emphasis should still be placed on making the mealtime experience as positive as possible. The extensive literature that exists on dementia and feeding covers numerous areas from assessment, identifying feeding behaviours, possible interventions, nursing interactions and approaches and ethical issues. The common focus of published research has been on assessment, interventions and approaches to maximising nutritional intake.

Objective: This research focuses on how interventions and approaches impact on the residents’ own experience at mealtimes.

Methods: Key and structural elements during mealtimes were examined by two observers and concurrently rated in terms of time and context and impact on residents. These elements include staff attitudes and approaches, environmental factors, regulation of the meal, and their impact on residents’ experiences during this time.

Results: Observed residents’ responses to key and structural elements were validated through interviews with key informants as well as with care staff. Findings in terms of what encourages a more positive mealtime experience for people with dementia can be used to direct staff training, care planning and future research into the quality of residents’ mealtime experiences.

Conclusions: Despite having quite serious mental confusion, residents do appreciate the value of mealtime in terms of the environment, attitudes of staff and the food itself. The quality of the experience is directly linked to an understanding by staff that mealtimes are more than therapeutic nutrition opportunities to be processed as efficiently as possible.

CITATION McDonald, T. & van Camp, L. (2007) What is it that makes mealtimes enjoyable for residents living with dementia? ACERBAC Conference, La Trobe University. September 26-27


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