8 March 2019

Nutrition and Hydration week and National Swallowing Awareness day

Nutrition and Dietetic teams and their Speech and Language colleagues are taking part in National Nutrition and Hydration week 2019 (11th to 17th March, to raise awareness and improve the understanding of the importance of good nutrition and hydration, and National Swallowing Awareness day on 13th March to help raise awareness of people with eating and drinking difficulties.

Lucinda Silva, Advanced Specialist Dietitian and Acute Team Lead said: “This year our Dietitians and Speech and Language Therapists main focus will be on eating and drinking issues in individuals with Dementia, and individuals with swallowing difficulties known as Dysphagia. On Wednesday 13th March we will be joining in the national tea party on all the wards at Conquest Hospital and Eastbourne DGH. There will also be an extra special tea party – ‘The Alice in Wonderland themed Swallowing Awareness Day Tea Party’ – with some patients having a tea, with textured modified foods and thickened fluids.”

As part of the week, the Trust will be launching a national campaign “Your Eating and Drinking Matters”, which will help us to support our staff to provide the best care for our patients. The week will also see the relaunch of the Red Tray/Jug scheme and raise awareness of the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative. The initiative describes standards set for textured modified food and thickened liquids, which have been internationally agreed for all ages, care settings and cultures, and will improve patient safety. The Speech and Language Therapists will be inviting staff and members of the public to try samples of these newly agreed standards on Wednesday at their stand.

There will be displays at both hospitals on these themes as well as activities. To raise awareness the Dietetic and Speech and Language Therapy teams have devised a crossword competition with prizes and a photo Red Tray/Jug caption competition.

Dr Mark Whitehead, Chair of the ESHT Nutrition and Hydration Steering Group said: “We hope that this week’s activities raise awareness and helps improve staff knowledge and skills in nutritional care and management, so as to improve and provide good and effective patient nutritional care.”

National Nutrition and Hydration week 2019 will see nationwide action across hospitals, care and nursing homes, to raise awareness and improve the understanding of the importance of good nutrition and hydration.

More Information
Dementia affects 850,000 people in the UK and many of them will experience problems with eating and drinking as part of the natural progression of dementia. There are many reasons why a person with dementia may lose interest in, or decline food and drink which will lead to both malnutrition and dehydration.

Swallowing problems, known as dysphagia can affect 68% of people with Dementia in care homes and many of the patients in hospitals including:

  • 65% of people who have a stroke
  • 50% of people with Parkinson’s Disease
  • People with cancer in the head, neck , lung and oesophagus
  • People with respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and asthma

Weight loss is common in people with dementia, although the causes vary and may include:

  • lack of appetite
  • difficulty with chewing and swallowing
  • problems with communicating or recognising hunger
  • getting tired more easily
  • poor coordination and getting tired more easily

Poor appetite, cognitive impairment (problems with mental abilities), physical abilities and sensory impairments such as hearing and sight loss can all cause the person with dementia to have problems eating and drinking.

There are practical ways to support a person to eat and drink better and these will be highlighted. The Alzhemier’s Society have produced a useful leaflet – “Eating and drinking” detailing what the issues are and what you can do to help improve the intake of an individual with dementia.