Health staff highlight the importance of a healthy diet for elderly patients
Health and social care staff in Oldham are supporting a national campaign to highlight the importance of good nutrition and hydration for patients.
Nutrition and Hydration Awareness Week takes place from 11th – 17th March and the aim behind the campaign is to highlight the importance of eating and drinking well, particularly for elderly people. It also celebrates the innovations and best practice being introduced by health and social care teams to educate patients about the value of food and drink in maintaining good health and wellbeing.
Paul Devlin, Divisional Director of Nursing at The Royal Oldham Hospital, explains: “We know that there are many benefits to patients maintaining a healthy weight. Patients who eat and drink well enjoy better health, have fewer GP visits, fewer hospital admissions and recover faster from illness. It’s estimated that around 14% of patients over 65 are at risk of malnutrition and we know that dehydration in older adults can be linked to falls and them needing to be admitted to hospital. That’s why we’re working closely with our partners in the community to raise awareness amongst patients about the benefits of them eating and drinking well to maintain good health and wellbeing.”
Evidence from Age UK suggests that malnourished people see their GP twice as often and are admitted to hospital three times more than those who enjoy a healthy diet. They also spend longer in hospital and have more ill health than those who are well nourished.
Nursing staff from The Royal Oldham Hospital have been raising awareness of good nutrition and hydration on wards and have set up ‘hydration stations’ with free drinks and snacks to ensure that both staff and patients have easy access to food and drink when they need them.
Hospital teams are also working closely with community based health and social care staff in Oldham to champion awareness of better nutrition and hydration in later life, to help reduce the number of avoidable stays in hospital amongst elderly patients.
Vicki Elcock is the Oldham Head of Urgent Care (Adult) for Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust and the senior lead for Butler Green Intermediate Care Unit. This community based unit provides care and therapy to help people avoid having to go into hospital, or to be discharged as quickly as possible.
Vicki explains: “Many older people don’t eat or drink and this can have a big impact on their overall health and wellbeing. It can also affect their independence, meaning they become more reliant on health and social care services. We work with local care homes to support patients who are really dehydrated and cannot take oral supplements.”
“We talk to our patients about the importance of food and drink in helping them to stay well and independent for longer. We have a therapist who works with patients in our kitchen to help them prepare easy, nutritious recipes that they enjoy. We offer lots of drinks throughout the day to keep them well hydrated and use a red plate system to identify patients who may need a little extra assistance. We believe that a few small changes can make a big difference to the overall health and wellbeing of our patients.”
Age UK offers some useful advice to elderly people about making some small changes to what they eat and drink, to help them maintain good health and wellbeing. These include:
- Eating small regular meals and snacks – 6 small meals can be as good as 3 big meals
- Eating every 2-3 hours, even if it is just finger foods or something small
- Getting some fresh air before meals to stimulate your appetite
- Making plans to eat with a friend or family member on a regular basis
- Getting your meals or shopping delivered to your home
- Aiming for 6-8 drinks per day – keep a water bottle with you and sip throughout the day
Support and advice on eating and drinking well is available for elderly people in Oldham as part of the GM Nutrition and Hydration Programme, a 2 year pilot programme, which is being run in Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale and Stockport to ensure that older people aged 65 and over are eating and drinking enough to remain healthy and independent. Sessions are an hour and half long and offer useful advice on eating and drinking well. You can find more details on the Age UK Oldham website at: www.ageukoldham.org.uk and book a place by contacting Teresa Griffiths on 0161 622 9267.