Original Research

Who really decides? Feeding decisions ‘made’ by caregivers of children with cerebral palsy

Lavanya Naidoo, Mershen Pillay, Urisha Naidoo
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 71, No 1 | a1001 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v71i1.1001 | © 2024 Lavanya Naidoo, Mershen Pillay, Urisha Naidoo | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 July 2023 | Published: 18 March 2024

About the author(s)

Lavanya Naidoo, Discipline of Speech-Language Therapy, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; and Department of Speech Language Pathology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Mershen Pillay, Discipline of Speech-Language Therapy, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; and Department of Speech and Language Therapy, Institute of Education, Massey University, Auckland, Palmerston, New Zealand
Urisha Naidoo, Discipline of Speech-Language Therapy, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Abstract

Background: There are no definitive guidelines for clinical decisions for children with cerebral palsy (CP) requiring enteral feeds. Traditionally, medical doctors made enteral feeding decisions, while patients were essentially treated passively within a paternalistic ‘doctor knows best’ approach. Although a more collaborative approach to decision-making has been promoted globally as the favoured model among healthcare professionals, little is known about how these decisions are currently made practically.

Objectives: This study aimed to identify the significant individuals, factors and views involved in the enteral feeding decision-making process for caregivers of children with CP within the South African public healthcare sector.

Method: A single-case research design was used in this qualitative explorative study. Data were collected using semi-structured interviews and analysed using reflexive thematic analysis.

Results: Four primary individuals were identified by the caregivers in the decision-making process: doctors, speech therapists, caregivers’ families and God. Four factors were identified as extrinsically motivating: (1) physiological factors, (2) nutritional factors, (3) financial factors and (4) environmental factors. Two views were identified as intrinsically motivating: personal beliefs regarding enteral feeding tubes, and feelings of fear and isolation.

Conclusion: Enteral feeding decision-making within the South African public healthcare sector is currently still dominated by a paternalistic approach, endorsed by a lack of caregiver knowledge, distinct patient-healthcare provider power imbalances and prescriptive multidisciplinary healthcare dialogues.

Contribution: This study has implications for clinical practice, curriculum development at higher education training facilities, and institutional policy changes and development, thereby contributing to the current knowledge and clinical gap(s) in the area.


Keywords

children; enteral feeding; caregivers; decision-making; South Africa.

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

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