The increasing age of populations throughout the world means that healthcare services are faced with new challenges, not least regarding the provision of food during hospital stay. There is a lack of knowledge of how hospital mealtimes are experienced by older patients, and so the aim of this article was to review current knowledge regarding mealtimes in hospitals from the perspectives of older patients. A literature search was performed using seven databases: PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, Sociological Abstracts, SweMed+, ASSIA and CINAHL with no limits regarding publication date. The inclusion criteria were peer-reviewed articles in English or Swedish that used qualitative methods to examine older patients' (>65 years) mealtime experiences. The Five Aspect Meal Model (FAMM) served as a framework for understanding the complexity behind a mealtime experience. Qualitative content analysis was used as a guide when analysing the material. The search produced 415 studies, 14 of which were included in the review. The findings generated three main themes for understanding how older patients experience mealtimes while in hospital: (1) the food and the food service, (2) mealtime assistance and commensality during mealtimes and (3) the importance of retaining one's independence. The review also clearly indicated a shortage of studies that solely focus on older patients' experiences of their mealtime. More research is therefore needed to be fully able to understand the complex task of providing meals in hospitals.
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