Mealtime support for adults with intellectual disabilities: Understanding an everyday activity

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Background: Mealtime support has a direct bearing on the diet-related health of men and women with intellectual disabilities as well as opportunities for expressing dietary preferences. Method: Semi-structured interviews with a sample of direct support staff providing mealtime support to adults with intellectual disabilities. Results: When managing tensions between a person's dietary preferences and ensuring safe and adequate nutrition and hydration, direct support staff are sensitive to a wide range of factors. These include the following: clinical advice; service users’ rights to choose; their (in)capacity to weigh up risks; how service users communicate; the constituents of a healthy diet; and a duty to protect service users' health. Conclusions: Those responsible for setting standards and regulating the care practices need to look beyond too simple ideas of choice and safety to recognize ways in which providing support at mealtimes is a complex activity with serious consequences for people's health and well-being.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-117
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
Issue number1
Early online date16 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • dysphagia
  • eating and drinking
  • healthcare
  • social care

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