The power of food in aiding transition

A long-standing
friend died in the summer just passed. She had only a few weeks to get used to
the fact she was at the end of her life. And at 70 it was all too short. Des Kelly tells of how he was with her
on the day she transferred from hospital to a hospice where she was for the
last two weeks and where she died.

The
move into the hospice was a model of best practice and witnessing the
experience made me reflect on the importance of managing such transitions well.
If the experience of the process of admission is managed effectively so many
other aspects of living in a care setting are eased. I want to use this blog to
consider just one of the ways in which admitting someone into a care home can
be done well.

On
arrival at the hospice Mary (not her real name) was welcomed – they were
expecting her (this is the first positive!). Her room was ready (second
positive). Every effort was made to check she was comfortable and the room
arranged as she desired (positive number three!).

A
dedicated member of staff had been allocated to managing the process (positive
four) who spent time with her (positive 5), checking all the necessary
information was correct (positive 6) including how she wished to be addressed (positive
7). Mary was treated throughout with dignity and respect (positive 8) in ways
that demonstrated that she was in control (positive 9) and able to exercise
real choice (positive 10) which was checked at every stage (positive 11). In
checking personal information her privacy was respected as everyone else left the
room while her specific care and support needs were discussed (positive 12).

image

Image from http://www.carehomecatering.co.uk/

The personal touch

Twelve
positives already are, I reckon, all a promising sign of excellent care
practice but the issue I wanted to highlight for this blog is the importance of
food especially at a time of crisis. Shortly after Mary had been settled the
cook came to her room to ask what she would like for lunch – the transfer from
hospital had ended up being over the lunch period. She was offered a range of
options to tempt her rather diminished appetite. I was impressed with the
personal touch and the efforts being made to ensure she had food and drink. It
was a breakthrough moment in helping to overcome her anxieties about the move.

I
believe food and drink is a fundamental aspect of the provision of care and
support to people living in a care setting. There is pleasure in anticipating
what is on the menu, the companionship of sharing a meal as well as the
pleasure of food itself. The look and the smell of food stimulates the appetite
just as much as taste. And, of course, you don’t have to be a ‘foodie’ to enjoy
meals and mealtimes as social opportunities.

Food
had always been an important part of Mary’s life. She was a good cook and she loved
to gather people around the table, sharing food and drink and the social
activity made possible by meals. So many photographs and memories I have are of
such joyous occasions.

Knowing
something of the life of people before they move into any care setting is
essential to being able to provide outstanding care and support. It’s not
difficult but it requires planning and an attention to detail I’d like believe
could be the norm everywhere. I know it made such a difference to the quality
of life Mary experienced in her last few weeks … and that also had a
significant impact on the experience of her family.

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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