One hundred and forty-three nurses’ aids and 48 enrolled nurses at nursing homes in Sweden were interviewed about food refusal among patients. It became evident that their concepts of ‘food refusal’ and ‘forced feeding’ were very vague. This could partly be explained by the lack of knowledge among staff of how to interpret the frequent ambiguous eating behaviours among demented patients. It has been suggested that concept clarification and ethical analysis might reduce anxiety among staff caring for patients with severe eating problems.