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feeding, mealtime, nursing, nursing homes, nutrition, qualitative research, volunteer



  1. Steele, Catriona M. PhD, CCC-SLP, SLP(C), Reg. CASLPO
  2. Rivera, Tiziana MSc, RN, ACNP, GNC(C)
  3. Bernick, Laurie MScN, RN, ACNP, GNC(C)
  4. Mortensen, Lyen BSc


Focus groups were conducted with staff in a geriatric care facility who provided mealtime assistance during a quarantine that prevented family members from entering the facility. The volunteers' accounts reflected 3 primary themes that influenced their experience as mealtime assistants. First, the role of volunteer-recipient relationships emerged as paramount in facilitating optimal mealtime care. Strong reinforcement was derived from small signs of gratitude and awareness in the residents' nonverbal behaviors. This fostered the volunteers' sense of fiduciary responsibility toward the resident, thereby facilitating a meaningful and successful mealtime experience. Second, it was clear that the experience of being a mealtime assistant evolved over time, with changes in volunteer attitude mediated directly by the relationships that developed between volunteers and recipients. Lastly, the data reflect a strong awareness among volunteers of the challenges faced by nursing staff on a daily basis with respect to meeting the mealtime needs of residents in long-term care institutions, and a concern that nursing staff have insufficient time to develop intimate relationships with residents at the mealtime. These data strongly suggest that volunteer-assisted mealtime programs that focus primarily on social relationships can enhance the mealtime experience for residents in long-term care institutions.