Áilín Quinlan

For those suf­fer­ing from de­men­tia or spend­ing a long pe­riod in hospi­tal, it can be dif­fi­cult to en­sure they are get­ting the right food — and enough of it — to en­sure a full re­cov­ery. A new cam­paign aims to en­sure pa­tients are get­ting what they need, writ

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - AGEING WELL -

“Some peo­ple can strug­gle to eat enough through­out the day to meet their nu­tri­tional re­quire­ments, while oth­ers may for­get to eat, think­ing they have al­ready eaten, or strug­gle to fin­ish a meal. This can all be­come more chal­leng­ing as de­men­tia pro­gresses,” she says.

“Peo­ple with de­men­tia do not al­ways find ad­just­ment easy — par­tic­u­larly when in hospi­tal with an ill­ness.

“They can for­get where they are and why they are ac­tu­ally in hospi­tal. As you can imag­ine, this can be a very dis­tress­ing and fright­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“For this rea­son, it is very im­por­tant that de­men­tia-friendly en­vi­ron­ments are cre­ated in hos­pi­tals to en­sure peo­ple with de­men­tia are eat­ing prop­erly while they are in hos­pi­tals.”

There is a prob­lem, ac­knowl­edges Pro­fes­sor Der­mot Power, a con­sul­tant at the Mater Hospi­tal, spe­cial­ist in geri­atric medicine, and pres­i­dent of the Royal Acad­emy of Medicine in Ire­land — and he’s de­cided to tackle it with a just-launched cam­paign.

The so­cial me­dia cam­paign #Din­ner­time is about rais­ing aware­ness of the need to give older pa­tients in the hospi­tal set­ting, par­tic­u­larly those with de­men­tia, suf­fi­cient time and at­ten­tion to en­sure they achieve a good food in­take.

“The aim is to in­crease an aware­ness of the amount of time and at­ten­tion that elderly pa­tients need in hospi­tal to en­sure they eat suf­fi­ciently,” says Prof Power, adding that in­suf­fi­cient food in­take in the hospi­tal set­ting is a prob­lem pri­mar­ily as­so­ci­ated with de­men­tia pa­tients.

“It hap­pens be­cause pa­tients with cog­ni­tion prob­lems are not able to man­age and, from per­sonal ob­ser­va­tion of the day-to-day re­al­ity on the wards, we are see­ing that while food can be ad­e­quate in terms of con­tent and tem­per­a­ture, it’s be­ing put in front of pa­tients who may not have ei­ther the en­ergy or the cog­ni­tive abil­ity to feed them­selves.

“Meal trays are be­ing put in front of peo­ple who do not have the cog­ni­tion or the phys­i­cal ca­pac­ity to feed them­selves so the food is go­ing cold,” Prof Power says.

“Staff are of­ten busy do­ing other tasks and meals are not be­ing eaten.

“What hap­pens to pa­tients in this sit­u­a­tion is that their re­cov­ery is af­fected. They can be­come mal­nour­ished and de­hy­drated, which pro­longs their re­cov­ery time and their stay in hospi­tal.

“Our hos­pi­tals need to be­come more de­men­tia-friendly, and all staff should have a ba­sic un­der­stand­ing of the needs of de­men­tia,” he adds. “They should un­der­stand that these pa­tients may lack the in­sight to know whether they’re hun­gry or be aware that they haven’t eaten.

“They need to un­der­stand that they are not deal­ing with some­one who is fully in con­trol of their sit­u­a­tion and that staff need to ob­serve and as­sist. Peo­ple with de­men­tia need to be en­cour­aged and fa­cil­i­tated.”

How­ever, says Prof Power, hos­pi­tals have be­come in­creas­ingly aware of the prob­lem, and there has been a move to bring those pa­tients with higher needs to­gether in a ded­i­cated en­vi­ron­ment.

De­men­tia-friendly ini­tia­tives have been car­ried out in hos­pi­tals such as Mercy Univer­sity Hospi­tal in Cork as part of the Cork IDEAS ÷ ÷ ÷ ÷ ÷ ÷ ÷ ÷

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