New holistic diet is improving patients’ quality of life

Categories: Care and Featured.
Sarah Metcalfe

St Teresa’s Hospice in Darlington has introduced a new holistic dietary care package for patients.

A pilot project called the Patient-led Assessment for Nutritional Care (PLANC) is helping people whose appetite has been affected by their conditions and therapies. The project is replacing the more rigid national approach that was introduced to prevent the effects of malnutrition in 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” Sarah added.

PLANC considers the patient’s condition and the reasons they are off their food, looks at calorie intake and any weight loss and prompts interventions by doctors or dieticians. For people in the last few weeks of life it ensures everyone understands the process and promotes their quality of life.

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

“Patients are given whatever they want to eat whenever they want it” Sarah said. “They may crave sweet stuff 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 in more depth at individual needs, whether that means serving lobster or an early Christmas dinner.”

For more information visit St Teresa’s Hospice

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