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Best practice to ensure hydration and nutrition in care

Nutrition and hydration week this year is 14th-20th March 2022, where health & social care professionals in clinical, catering, and nursing bring together their combined expertise. The aim of this week is to raise awareness of nutrition and hydration best practice, with over 3 million people in the UK suffering with poor nutrition and issues around hydration.

It can be difficult to ensure that older people are eating and drinking properly as they may have a poor appetite and don’t feel like eating or drinking. Residents in the care sector should be monitored closely to ensure that their intake of food and drink is suitable and any concerns can be raised in a timely manner.

Being underweight can be especially serious for older people as it increases the risk of health problems, including:

  • Bone fracture if they fall.
  • It weakens the immune system, leaving people more susceptible to infections.
  • It increases the risk of being deficient in important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.

It is important to monitor residents’ weight and if there’s cause for concern, supplements can be provided to support mealtimes. You can substitute elements of the diet with higher fat and protein content such as full fat milk, cheese, bread, and offering a fortified drink; hot milky drinks will also help.

Offering an excellent choice of food is important; mealtimes should be an enjoyable part of the day and the residents should look forward to it as a time of social interaction. Meals should be varied to make sure the residents do not suffer with menu fatigue, as well as being tasty with a variety of colour and textures. If any of the residents require a texture-modified meal, thought must be given to the presentation of the meal so residents can retain dignity and enjoy mealtimes. In all cases, meals should be nutritionally balanced with elements of protein, carbohydrate, vegetables, etc.

Each resident should have an individual care plan with any dietary requirements clearly highlighted. Communication between nurses, carers and catering staff is vital to make sure a “rounded approach” to care is provided. The care plan information will be supported by systems such as CaterCloud which provide all the relevant nutritional and allergen information for each recipe in the system, and chefs can then use this information to ensure that each resident is receiving suitable meals to suit their dietary requirements.

Hydration is often a problem for the older generation; they often don’t enjoy cold drinks and can forget about their hot drinks leaving them to go cold. It is important for carers to monitor fluid intake and output, particularly if there are any concerns. It can be helpful for carers to sit with residents to ensure they finish their drinks, which can be a challenge as they have lots of residents to attend to, so there are now gadgets to track hydration levels and cups with sensors or timers in reminding the person to drink regularly.

Training and awareness should form part of ongoing professional development for everyone working in the care sector and recognising signs of dehydration is important to avoid serious illness. Providing good food and nutrition alongside any medication is very important to ensure good health.

Jacqui McPeake JACS Ltd on behalf of Allergen Accreditation.

CaterCloud is the leading integrated solution for allergen, nutrition, menu planning and cost management and it’s FREE TO USE – sign up here or contact support@catercloud.com for more information. Our CaterCloud team are experts in the care sector and work closely with our care clients to provide tailored support.

Published on March 15th, 2022

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