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‘Food for Life and Palliation (FLiP)’: a qualitative study for understanding and empowering dignity and identity for terminally ill patients in Asia

Objectives: With ‘eating’ posited as Singapore’s domestic pastime, food experiences for Singaporeans constitute national, social, ethnic and personal identities. However, though they form significant parts of Singaporean existence across the lifespan, studies and observations about food experiences for individuals at the end of life remain noticeably absent. Extant literature continues to focus on nutritional practice during illness and the active dying process, forgoing the rich lived experiences of food in the lives of patients and their families. The current work sought to qualitatively extricate through a constructivist phenomenological approach, the ‘food voices’ of Singaporean palliative care patients and their families. It also simultaneously aimed to assess the role of food in bolstering their subjective feelings of dignity and identity, while also considering resultant clinical implications. Setting: Homes of patients within the Singaporean palliative care setting. Participants: A subset of qualitative data (n=25) in the form of dyadic interviews with terminally ill patients and a family caregiver was generated from a larger family dignity intervention study that explored the experience of living and dying among Asian palliative care patients and their families. Results: Framework analysis with both inductive and deductive approaches informed by the a priori domain of food resulted in the generation of four major themes, each with three subthemes. These were organised into the Food for Life and Palliation model. They include: (1) feeding identity and familial bonds, (2) liminal subsistence in illness transition, (3) food becoming lineage, and (4) compassionate nourishment. Conclusions: Clinical implications are considered; including food-focused interventions that enhance dignity, promote meaning-making and facilitate legacy construction. Developmental suggestions are also directed at industry partners producing end-of-life nutrition products.

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Key Information

Type of Reference
Jour
Type of Work
Journal article
Publisher
BMJ Publishing Group
Publication Year
2021
Issue Number
4
Journal Titles
BMJ Open
Volume Number
11
Start Page
e038914