Mealtime challenges in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: Who is responsible?

Dorthe Sørensen, Anna Rottensten Wieghorst, Johanne Andersen Elbek, Camilla Askov Mousing

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftsartikelForskningpeer review


This study is aimed at exploring experiences of, and practices related to, mealtime challenges in patients with COPD.

Nutritional status is a significant indicator of prognosis and outcome in patients with COPD. Preventing unintended weight loss and helping patients regain weight are important nursing tasks. Dietary supplements have been effective in treating underweight in cases of stable COPD. However, compliance with long-term interventions is quite low. Improving nutritional intake through knowledge of meal-related challenges is the key to making further progress in preventing unintended weight loss.

This study employed an ethnographic design using the go-along method.

From September 2018 to June 2019, 34 hours of meal-related observations and informal conversations with purposefully selected patients (n=15) were completed at a Danish respiratory medicine ward and in patients’ homes. We analysed the empirical data using a Ricoeur-inspired method. Reporting adheres to the COREQ Checklist.

In this study, we identified the absence of professional responsibility as a main challenge. Mealtimes appeared to be relegated to a matter of nutrition, and common practices surrounding mealtimes were no longer observed. Patients became dependent individuals who had to settle for the food available. In addition, physiological challenges often resulted in patients re-evaluating the benefits of eating, concluding that it was not worth the effort and therefore not eating. Furthermore, patients were hesitant to communicate their needs, which left a number of non-verbalised challenges unattended.

Overall, meal-related challenges pose a risk of unintended weight loss, and the health professionals’ work with mealtimes lacks a coordinated, systematic approach. Further research is needed to develop or implement interventions that can accommodate mealtimes.

Relevance to clinical practice
This study contributes valuable knowledge that can be used to improve the quality of nursing care and prevent unintended weight loss in patients with COPD.

TidsskriftJournal of Clinical Nursing
Udgave nummer23-24
Sider (fra-til)4583-4593
Antal sider11
StatusUdgivet - 2020


  • rehabilitering
  • KOL