Do physical environmental changes make a difference? Supporting person-centered care at mealtimes in nursing homes

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PurposeDrawing on therapeutic physical environmental design principles and Kitwood’s theoretical view of person-centered care, this study examined the impact of environmental renovations in dining spaces of a long-term care facility on residents’ mealtime experience and staff practice in two care units.MethodThe research design involved pre- and post-renovation ethnographic observations in the dining spaces of the care units and a post-renovation staff survey. The objective physical environmental features pre- and post-renovations were assessed with a newly developed tool titled Dining Environment Audit Protocol. We collected observational data from 10 residents and survey responses from 17 care aides and nurses.FindingsBased on a systematic analysis of observational data and staff survey responses, five themes were identified: (a) autonomy and personal control, (b) comfort of homelike environment, (c) conducive to social interaction, (d) increased personal support, and (e) effective teamwork.ImplicationsAlthough the physical environment can play an influential role in enhancing the dining experience of residents, the variability in staff practices reveals the complexity of mealtime environment and points to the necessity of a systemic approach to foster meaningful culture change.

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