Conference Abstracts

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Priorities in dementia care: Adding comfort to nutrition at mealtimes

McDonald, T. A. & van Camp, L., 2008

Dementia Conference, Sydney

YEAR 2008


Background: With advancing symptoms of dementia there is an inevitable decline in the ability of a person to self-feed and, some may think, to fully appreciate the content and contexts of mealtimes.

The most notable feature of mealtimes within high care dementia units is the extensive dependency of residents on care staff who assist them to eat and manage their meals. Because mealtimes and eating are activities closely linked to culture and background the context of meals and the management of the environment are important factors for promoting social interaction. The common focus of published research has been on assessment, interventions and approaches to maximising nutritional intake. Even so, assistance provided during mealtimes can undermine the potential for good nutrition unless emphasis is also placed on making the mealtime experience as positive as possible.

Objective: We reported on an observational study in a dementia care dining room to identify interventions and approaches that affect residents’ experience during mealtimes.

Methods: Key and structural elements during mealtimes were examined in terms of how they 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: The results of this research in terms of factors that enhance the mealtime experience for residents and those that do not, were outlined and the findings discussed in terms of planning individualised care for residents; staff coaching and future areas of research to be undertaken.

Conclusions: The conclusion from this research is that residents with quite serious mental confusion can appreciate the value of mealtime in terms of the food, attitudes of staff and the dining room environment. Staff understanding that mealtimes are more than therapeutic or nutrition opportunities enhances the experience for all involved.

CITATION McDonald, T. & van Camp, L. (2008) Priorities in dementia care: Adding comfort to nutrition at mealtimes Hammond Care Conference 2008. “Finding the Gaps and Maintaining the Passion” 16-17 June, Sydney


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