When patients are unwell and do not feel like eating or drinking it can be a challenge to help them meet their nutritional and hydration needs.
‘Tea for Two’ is an initiative at South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust which aims to encourage patients to drink more to stay hydrated to promote their physical wellbeing, and at the same time allows them to enjoy some social interaction to aid their psychological wellbeing.
As well as hydration being essential in recovery and to maintain health, we believe that social interaction is instrumental in a patient’s recovery from their period of ill health. We know that many of our patients (particularly those with a cognitive impairment) are more likely to have a drink if someone else is drinking with them.
Staff (especially busy staff who may not have stopped to have a break) or volunteers are encouraged to stop and make their patient(s) a drink, to make themselves one too, and to pull up a chair and to have a chat with their patient(s). This is also extended to carers of patients who are sitting with their loved ones for long periods and supporting the care of a patient in hospital.
This provides a great opportunity for us to get to know our patients better and to build therapeutic relationships with them, it provides company for patients who may not regularly receive visitors and it encourages everyone to stay hydrated.
‘Let’s do Lunch’ aims to make mealtimes an enjoyable sociable event for all. The enjoyment of food is often associated with company and socialising, and why should this be different in a hospital setting?
We know that it is best practice for clinical areas to follow a protected mealtime policy. During protected mealtimes, all non-urgent clinical activity ceases and staff help patients to eat and drink in a relaxed atmosphere.
As with many other healthcare organisations, SWFT do encourage family and carers to come in at mealtimes to assist their relative with eating and drinking, but in addition to this, we welcome our visitors to bring in a packed lunch with them and to eat with their friend or family member.
This allows our patients to enjoy mealtimes and feel like they are joining in a sociable activity. Our patients eat better when they are eating with others, instead of having visitors watch them to eat.
Both initiatives have received positive feedback, from friends and family who feel welcome on the wards and a part of what is going on to improve the wellbeing and recovery of their loved one. From staff who have enjoyed sitting with their patients, who feel they have been granted more time to get to know them, and feel better able to encourage and influence their nutritional and fluid intake. And from patients who enjoy eating and drinking with company, turning mealtimes and teatime into an eagerly anticipated event.
Joanne Poole – Clinical Nurse Lead for Frailty (South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust) Twitter @joloupoole