"I don’t eat when I’m sick." "The smell of food makes me feel nauseous." "I’m quite depressed at the moment. When you get like that you don’t feel like eating much."
These were some of the sentiments shared by participants of a study into older people’s mealtime experiences in hospital.
The QUT, Dietitian Connection and Bond University research team interviewed 25 hospital patients aged 65–98 years and found that inadequate dietary intake is complex and influenced by a range of barriers.
Some of them included the view that poor appetite was an expected outcome of being sick and in hospital, and feeling rushed by food service staff who needed to clear meal trays.
Patients also purposely ate less food because they were anxious about being unable to access the toilet in time, as four patients were sharing the one facility.
Co-author Dr Ekta Agarwal from Bond University said: “Previous work that I have published demonstrates that when patients eat poorly in hospital, their risk of death increases by 2–3 times. Therefore, poor intake is not something that should be taken lightly in the hospital setting. There is a need to improve food awareness among staff members, patients and their families so that food can also be treated as medicine.”
Nursing Review sat down with Agarwal to unpack the different ways patients rationalised their poor food intake and the hospital systems that affect their mealtime experiences.
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