Innovations in diet to boost the recovery of patients were showcased by clinicians at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH) during Nutrition and Hydration Week 13-19 March.
Diet plays a crucial role in maintaining the physical health and mental wellbeing of people, especially those aged over 65 who are at greater risk of malnutrition.
The right diet helps patients take part in therapies, however many patients with dementia can struggle to get through conventional meals to get the calories they need. Teams at SASH have developed compact, foldable ‘finger food’ boxes containing high calorie foods such as shortbread, oatcakes and small slices of cake – to supplement traditional meals.
Chris O’Connor, nurse consultant for dementia and older people, said: “It sounds a bit counter-intuitive to be giving high calorie snacks in this way however they play an important part in the recovery of a patient, particularly the elderly. People with dementia can struggle to eat three meals a day as the condition develops.
“People with impaired brain function need a steady intake of food rather than them worrying about getting through a whole plate of food. It keeps energy levels up so they can do therapies essential for a good recovery and positive mental wellbeing.
“We have introduced our finger food in a box, to encourage patients with dementia to eat little and often. It’s just the start and we plan to also introduce hot finger food too.”
To mark each day of the awareness week dietitians at SASH held a series of tea parties for each of the five care of the elderly wards at East Surrey Hospital. Patients and loved ones were joined by musicians from the Wishing Well charity for a sing along.
Dietitians at the Trust hosted an information stand outside the hospital’s Three Arches Restaurant promoting healthy nutrition and the importance of good hydration.
Suzanne O’Sullivan, nutrition nurse specialist, added: “Social dining creates a calm environment allowing patients to socially interact with each other while enjoying a meal or snack. This encourages patients to engage during meal times and increase their nutritional consumption.”