"It's part of our life now": a qualitative exploration of the social eating experiences of family members of patients living with head and neck cancer

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Abstract

Purpose: Family members (FMs) of patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) report a change in their social eating experience. They miss out on the opportunities and benefits that eating with others provides. However, few studies investigate FM’s social eating experiences, with existing research primarily focusing on the patient experience. Therefore, the aim of this study was to explore the social eating experiences of FMs of patients who have had treatment for HNC. Methods: A qualitative research design using semi-structured interviews was used to understand FM’s social eating experiences. Key themes were inductively developed from the data using reflexive thematic analysis. Results: Twelve interviews were conducted with FMs, and three key themes were identified: (1) changes and challenges experienced by FMs due to HNC patients’ social eating difficulties, (2) living with social eating changes is a balancing act, and (3) FMs’ efforts to promote social eating for a patient with HNC. FMs expressed significant changes to their social eating habits within and outside the home, indicating the need for support to meet their own emotional, psychological and social needs. Conclusion: FMs experience many demands and tensions, having to balance the psychological impact they experience, which are often minimised, whilst attempting to find the best ways to support, protect and encourage their loved ones to adjust and adapt to social eating changes. Therefore, interventions need to support FMs’ challenges and equip them to know how to best support patients living with HNC and themselves.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalSupportive care in cancer : official journal of the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer
Early online date28 Oct 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished online - 28 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This review was funded by the Department for the Economy (DfE) Studentship.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).

Keywords

  • Head and neck cancer
  • Commensality
  • Carer
  • Family
  • Eating
  • Social

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