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J Gerontol Nurs. 2008 Nov;34(11):46-54.

Hot tea and juk: the institutional meaning of food for Chinese elders in an American nursing home.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of California, Davis Health System, Sacramento, CA 95817, USA.


This qualitative study describes how Chinese elders in an American nursing home perceived their food and mealtime experiences. Data collection included 20 meal observations and interviews with 7 residents, 9 family members, and 17 staff members. Field notes and interviews were coded and analyzed using an iterative approach similar to grounded theory. All participant groups described institutional food and meals as individualized, nutritious therapy for medical illnesses. Mealtimes lacked sociability and sharing, and although family members provided Chinese food, they did not eat with residents. Residents generally did not consider the institution's effort to provide an "Asian diet" of hot tea and juk (rice porridge) to be Chinese food. These findings suggest that, for these Chinese elders, the biomedicalized, individualized food service and mealtime caregiving practices stripped food of its meaning as a social, shared mealtime experience with family. Nursing professionals and researchers should understand that provision of culturally competent mealtime care for ethnic (Chinese) long-term care residents involves important food service practices in addition to kinds of food.

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