BACKGROUND: In nursing homes, food is part of the care provided to residents, causing it to be strictly organised within the institutional framework. Moreover, once food has been integrated into the institutional logic, structural and economic aspects regarding organisation of food and eating may dictate individual and social needs, as a theoretical perspective informed by Goffman's notion of the 'total social institution' suggests. This paper describes nursing home residents' practices of dealing with meal requirements in two Austrian nursing homes, to understand how food integrates into the daily routine and how the institutional setting influences the social and material arrangement of food.
METHODS: An ethnographic design was chosen to gain an in-depth understanding. Two urban nursing homes were studied over 21 months (approx. 800 h of participant observation and ethnographic interviews collected). Data analysis took place iteratively, following Grounded Theory strategies.
RESULTS: As the thick descriptions resulting from this procedure show, observing everyday practices of eating in nursing homes reveals complex dimensions of residents being subject to institutional logics, and also demonstrates that residents develop elaborate strategies to deal with the institutional circumstances.
CONCLUSION: A better understanding of the resulting tensions between the restrictions of living in a formal organisation and the agencies of residents described, may contribute to better understanding the effects of structural constraints and to designing more flexible processes.
- Nursing Homes
- Anthropology, Cultural