Understanding factors affecting optimal nutrition and hydration for people living in specialised dementia care units : a qualitative study of caregivers' perceptions : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Background: Worldwide, 35.6 million people have dementia. The current aging world population means prevalence of dementia is expected to almost double every 20 years. Weight loss, undernutrition and dehydration are common in people with dementia especially among those who reside in specialised dementia care units (SDCUs). There are currently no foodservice guidelines specifically for SDCUs in New Zealand. Aim: To understand factors affecting optimal nutrition and hydration for individuals living in SDCUs. Objectives: To explore the perceptions of caregivers regarding factors influencing intake of food and fluids, and to provide a range of potential recommendations for foodservice providers. Methods: Qualitative descriptive study, using semi-structured interviews with 11 caregivers at 2 SDCUs. Data were analysed using a general inductive approach. Findings: Environmental factors (relating to the surroundings of the dining environment, the social aspects to dining, and the need for and provision of support with mealtime activities), and individual factors (appetite, food appeal, and cognitive and functional abilities) affect food and fluid intake in people with dementia living in SDCUs. Conclusion: Factors affecting the nutrition and hydration status of people living in SDCUs are complex and inter-related. Organisations providing specialised dementia care, their staff, and foodservice providers can take a number of steps to ensure optimal nutrition and hydration for the people they care for.
Dementia, Dementia care units, Dementia patients' nutrition, Caregiver perceptions