We are supporting residents living with dementia with our ‘Making Mealtimes Marvellous’ campaign
Our ‘Making Mealtimes Marvellous’ campaign aims to provide advice on how to increase food and fluid intake for those living with dementia. We started this campaign at Seacroft Green Care Village, to improve our mealtimes for our residents, which was hugely successful.
Mealtimes are Precious and at Springfield Healthcare we protect them
Sitting down to enjoy a good food, in good company, in an unhurried and peaceful environment can be the highlight of everyone’s day. That’s what we aspire to achieve here at Springfield. We cater for everyone’s needs and tastes and provide meals which can be enjoyed in our dining rooms or in the comfort of a residents own room.
We consider our mealtimes ‘precious’ and we work to create an environment conducive to eating and drinking, which enables staff to provide residents with the support and assistance they need in order to maximise nutritional intake. We call these ‘Protected Mealtimes’ and always ensure that the resident is put at the centre of mealtimes and promotes a positive resident experience.
Our Protected Mealtimes are 12.30pm – 2.00pm and 4.30pm – 5.30pm
During these times
- ·All available staff will be allocated to support the residents
- Staff will not take allocated breaks, nor leave the community unless in an emergency situation
- All non-essential staff activity e.g. cleaning, laundry delivery should cease on the community during mealtimes
Below, we have outlined some key information about why nutrition is so important for those living with dementia.
Why are those with dementia at risk of undernutrition and dehydration?
Losing weight is common in people living with dementia, who may find eating and drinking difficult or refuse food or drink for a number of reasons:
- Problems expressing hunger/thirst, or dislike of a particular food or drink
- A lack of interest in food may be caused by low mood
- Confusion in recognising food and remembering how to eat
- Concentration can be poor, making it difficult to sit down and finish a meal
Other challenges associated with dementia include:
- Reduced thirst sensation
- Limited recognition of hunger
- Paranoia surrounding food
- Difficulties chewing and swallowing
Why is eating and drinking well important?
- Becoming dehydrated can put older people at risk of many health conditions, such as reduced cognitive status, incontinence, constipation, increased tiredness, low blood pressure, and can increase the risk of falls as a result of dizziness and confusion.
- It is recommended to drink around 6-8 glasses (1500ml) of fluid a day, however any increase in fluid intake will be beneficial.
- Undernutrition and loss of body mass can cause a more rapid progression of dementia as well as increasing the risk of complications such as pressure sores, infections, and falls and fractures.
The eating environment
- Sensory cues such as the smell of food being cooked and setting a table to eat can help people recognise it’s mealtime.
- Create a social environment at mealtimes and the opportunity to sit around a table together. This increases enjoyment of meals and means some can copy eating behaviours.
- Comfortable environment free from distractions such as loud background noise or TV, unpleasant smells and unnecessary items on the table.
- Positioning is important – sitting properly will help with chewing and swallowing and prevent feelings of early fullness.
- Support people to eat independently for as long as possible – guiding their hands, verbal prompts to remind, and the use of tools such as lightweight cups, high sided bowls. plain coloured plates.
- Allow more time for those with dementia to finish their meals, without making them feel rushed.
- Stimulate interest and enjoyment of food through celebrating occasions or events (e.g. Chinese New Year), and participating in tea dances, bbqs, coffee mornings, or curry evenings.
- Tastes can change as dementia develops and stronger flavours are often preferred. Try using mild spices and flavour enhances such as herbs, cheese and marmite.
- People with dementia often prefer sweeter foods so try things such as adding honey porridge, or jam in sandwiches.
- Mini meals – providing smaller portions at mealtimes and then offering seconds can be less daunting and easier to manage.
- Grazing menus/snacks – finger food such as sandwich bites, sausage rolls, chopped fruit, and mini rolls can help to increase food intake for those who struggle to concentrate/walk round while eating.
- If possible, drinks and snacks could be made readily available for people to help themselves to, but individuals should also be encouraged and prompted to eat and drink.
- Offer a variety of different drinks – tea, coffee, hot chocolate, squash/water served in jugs, ice lollies, and foods with a high water content such as melon and jelly.
- Encouragement to drink throughout the day as those with dementia may not be able to sense when they are thirsty. Try making them a drink rather than just offering.
- Fortifying food is a good way of getting more calories in without increasing portion size. Try adding things like full-fat milk, cheese, and cream to everyday foods such as mashed potato and soups.
Information retrieved from Bournemouth University research.