Accessing packaged food and beverages in hospital. Exploring experiences of patients and staff
Food and beverage packaging has been identified as a contributing factor to malnutrition among elderly patients in hospitals. The focus of this research was to describe the types of food and beverage packaging used in NSW hospitals, determine the 'problematic' packaging from the users' perspective, investigate the effect of hand strength on the ability to open the packaging and to survey users' (patients and staff) views on the 'accessibility' of the packaging. The study was conducted in the Illawarra region of NSW, Australia. Participants (140 mostly elderly inpatients and 64 staff members) were recruited from four local public hospitals. Data were collected using interviews, questionnaires, observations and grip strength testing. Several food and beverage packages were found difficult to open by at least 40% of patients. These included milk and juices (52%), cereal (49%), condiments (46%), tetra packs (40%) and water bottles (40%). The difficulties were attributed to 'fiddly' packaging, hand strength and vision; however, only tetra packs demonstrated a relationship between time taken to open and hand strength, suggesting other aspects of hand function may be more important than strength when opening food and beverage packages.