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Impact of hospitalisation of children on parental dietary habits: a qualitative study

Abstract

Objective To explore how prolonged hospitalisation of a child with a neurological condition influences the dietary habits of parents, taking account of their attitudes and perceptions of this experience.

Design Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews and inductive thematic analysis.

Subjects Fifteen parents of children (aged 2–16 years) with a neurological condition resulting in prolonged periods of hospitalisation were recruited.

Results Mothers (n=13) and fathers (n=2) who were interviewed experienced frequent hospital visits brought about by their child’s condition, or associated medical complications. Dietary habits of parents were affected throughout their time in hospital. Three key themes were identified relating to how hospitalisation influenced this: (1) access to food, (2) emotional and physical well-being and (3) impact on eating patterns and food choice.

Conclusions Findings from this study suggest that parents in these circumstances need to be better supported within the hospital setting as a number of barriers exist when it comes to accessing food in hospital and making healthy food choices. Additionally, having a child in hospital has a considerable effect on a parent’s emotional well-being, which further impacts on their dietary habits. The long-term physical and mental health implications of this may influence their ability to care for the sick child.

  • parents
  • dietary habits
  • hospitalised children
  • neurological disorders
  • food choice
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