Hospitalised and community dwelling older people (aged 65 years and over) have difficulties opening certain food and beverage items (e.g. cheese portions and tetra packs) served in public hospitals. Previously, the role of hand strength on successful pack opening has been explored in a seated position. However, because many people in hospital eat in bed, the present laboratory study examined the differences between participants opening a selection of products in a hospital bed and a chair.
The present study used a qualitative method (satisfaction) and quantitative methods (grip and pinch strength, dexterity, time and attempts) in two conditions (bed; chair) in a sample of well older community dwelling adults (n = 34). Packs tested included foil sealed thickened pudding, foil sealed thickened water, tetra pack, dessert, custard, jam, cereal, honey sachet and cheese portions.
Honey sachets, cheese portions, foil sealed thickened pudding and tetra packs were the most difficult packs to open, with 15% of cheese portions unable to be opened in either the bed or chair posture. Although grip strength was consistent for each posture, pinch grips and dexterity were adversely affected by the bed posture. Lying in a hospital bed required greater pinch strength and dexterity to open packs.
Eating in a seated position when in hospital has been shown to improve intake. The present study demonstrates that eating in a seated posture is also advantageous for opening the food and beverage packs used in the NSW hospital food service and supports the notion that patients should sit to eat in hospital.