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Innovative approach to nutrition helps patients to enjoy food again


Feb 13, 2020 #Darlington, #Experts

A LITTLE of what they fancy is doing patients good as a North-East hospice introduces a new holistic dietary care package for patients.

The Patient-led Assessment for Nutritional Care (PLANC) pilot project is helping people at St Teresa’s Hospice, Darlington, whose appetite is affected by their conditions and therapies.

The innovative approach to nutrition is replacing a more rigid national approach introduced to prevent the effects of malnutrition in those people with life-limiting illnesses.

In-patient unit sister Sarah Metcalfe said: “Often enjoyment and pleasure from eating and drinking can decline and diet becomes a source of stress and anxiety for patients and carers.

“PLANC uses algorithms which identify nutritional issues and determine the best approach depending on the patient’s stage of disease. This allows us to have conversations with patients and carers that would not otherwise have happened.

“It is hard for families to see their loved ones go off their food when they are used to them consuming hearty meals. But with many conditions this loss of appetite is a natural process.”

PLANC considers the patient’s condition and the reasons for being off their food, looks at calorie intake and any weight loss and prompts interventions by doctors or dieticians.

For those people in the last few weeks of life it ensures everyone understands the process and promotes the quality of life.

“Patients are given whatever they want to eat whenever they want it,” said Mrs Metcalfe. “They may crave sweet stuffs or strong flavours as conditions can lead them to lose their taste.

“Sometimes it might be a case of having a dry mouth and needing a bit more gravy or custard. Ulcers might make eating painful and this is a condition we can sort out after which they often resume eating normally.

“There’s the presumption that all patients’ appetites will decline but some, for instance those who are taking steroids, are often more hungry and enjoy three three-course meals a day. This is about looking more in depth at individual needs, whether that means serving lobster or an early Christmas dinner.”

Food is also served outside traditional mealtimes, throughout the day and night, thanks to a flexible and expert kitchen staff who monitor carefully patients’ needs.

By French