Den maktlösa måltiden : Om mat inom äldreomsorgen

Sammanfattning: In the Swedish elderly-care sector the institutions are of different character and the kind of care and food-supply they offer vary in scope and intensity. The aim of this study was to analyse how food and meals were handled and provided to the elderly living within those situations and in this context, how food was expressed as a substance or/and in symbols. This study focus on the social organisation that embraces the diet of the elderly and shapes the provisions of their meals, on the norms, values and behaviours of the different social identities in the organisation. The empirical work included in-depth interviews and participant observations in four different residential care homes, including various hierarchical levels, i.e. politicians and different personnel, in the organisation of food-supply to the elderly. In each care home different types of care and food-supply were studied, i.e. elderly having their meals in 24hour care, partime day care and those who ate in the restaurants. Generally, provision of meals was routine and meals were planned, prepared and served with little or no attention to what substanse and symbol it brought to the elderly. The elderly had limited possibilities to influence their own meals and those with the largest need of care, being the most fragile and sick had the least influence. The views of politicians and different personnel indicated that they considered themself powerless, which resulted in a "freedom of responsibility". It was obvious that there existed a clear discrepancy between how the informants considered the provision of food and meals should be organised and carried out, in comparison to reality. The current unsatisfactory provision of meals to the elderly is attributed to the marginalisation of specifically three areas: the symbolic value of food, the life and needs of the elderly and the traditional knowledge and experiences of women in their role as housewife and carer of the family.