Eating well in care homes: Testing the feasibility of a staff training programme aimed at improving social interaction and choice at mealtimes

Int J Older People Nurs. 2019 Sep;14(3):e12247. doi: 10.1111/opn.12247. Epub 2019 Jun 14.


Background: The health and well-being of care home residents are influenced by their experience of mealtimes, which provide an opportunity for residents to socialise and exercise control over their lives, as well as providing essential sustenance. Care home staff are pivotal to this experience, responsible for the provision of meals and eating assistance, but also for establishing a positive mealtime culture valued by residents. Despite this, mealtimes can be task-focussed, as the pressure on staff to perform multiple duties in limited time, or a lack of knowledge and awareness, means that resident needs and preferences risk being neglected.

Methods: A staff-focussed training programme aimed at improving social interaction, and resident choice was developed and delivered in a workshop. Intervention feasibility was assessed using a qualitative survey and workshop observations. A combination of descriptive and content analyses was conducted on the data.

Results: Thirteen women and one man took part in the workshops, representing multiple roles within two homes in the South West UK. The workshops were found to be deliverable and practicable. Participants responded positively to the workshops, anticipating that improvements to the mealtime experience would result from their workshop outputs.

Conclusion: This study suggests that staff training workshops based on improving the mealtime experience are feasible to deliver within the day-to-day running of a care home and are acceptable to staff. Positive changes resulting from these workshops could improve the health and well-being of residents.

Implications for practice: Mealtimes in care homes may be improved by increasing social interaction and by providing residents with greater choice. Management-faciltated staff training may be a useful tool to encourage staff to reflect on current practice and develop their own strategies to improve the mealtime experience for residents.

Keywords: mealtimes; older adults; residential care; staff training.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Choice Behavior*
  • England
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Food Services / organization & administration*
  • Homes for the Aged / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training*
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male