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Appetite and falls: Old age and lived experiences

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Author(s): Marianne Mahler | Anneli Sarvimäki

Journal: International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health & Well-Being
ISSN 1748-2623

Volume: 7;
Start page: 1;
Date: 2012;
Original page

Keywords: Falling | everyday life | older people | social support | interpretive phenomenology

ABSTRACT
Falling among older adults is a well-known public health problem but the association between falling and appetite is seldom studied although poor nutritional status is accepted as a risk factor for falls. On this background the aim of this study was to understand how older adults, who have fallen several times within a year, related their experiences of appetite as a phenomenon in everyday life. In narrative in-depth interviews, eight women and four men contributed with their stories. Using interpretative phenomenology the thematic analysis resulted in three main themes: appetite for food; appetite for social relations and appetite for influence. Eating was not trivial everyday routine and required self-regimentation. Meals were not an object of desire, but of discipline out of the wish to survive. Feelings, reflections and ambivalence were bound to the lack of appetite on food. The participants were oriented towards the forbidden, the delicious and to everyday food as a strengthener and as medicine. In their dependency on help, home was the framework for establishing social relations as means of social support. As well as family and neighbours, the significant others were persons on whom the participants were dependent. Personal relationships and mutual dependencies may ensure social security in lives characterised by contingency and maintain influence in daily life. Falling is both a dramatic and a trivial incident where life and death could be at stake. From this perspective, connectedness was prominent in all fall stories. The quest for influence and a sense of social connectedness was the incentive to re-enter local community arenas and to express solidarity. In health-care practice multi-factorial fall-prevention should be complemented with a multi-dimensional approach in order to balance the medical approach with humanistic and societal approaches towards fall-prevention.
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