As a home care professional your first thoughts when meeting with a new patient after a recent hospitalization are likely about vital signs, oxygen saturation, medications, wound care, and other clinical concerns. All of these are important to the recovery process but they can be helped or hindered by what the patient is eating.
Protein and calories are needed in the correct amounts each day to fuel the body’s recovery. If your patient consumes too little it will lead to unintended weight loss and loss of lean muscle mass and in turn, loss of independence and possibly a rehospitalization.
It is important to stress proper nutritional intake from the first very visit to speed up recovery. Asking a few questions about meals can easily be worked in without adding extra time to the home visit. Here are some tips:
- Look in the refrigerator and pantry each visit and see if the patient has food items on hand to prepare healthy meals.
- Make sure the patient has a scale available and is monitoring for weight changes regularly.
- Inquire about assistance needed for grocery shopping, meal planning, and food preparation tasks.
- To meet protein needs encourage a serving of eggs, beef, chicken, pork or fish at each meal. Eggs are inexpensive and easy to prepare, which make them an ideal source of complete protein.
- To meet caloric needs, suggest small meals throughout the day if appetite is a problem.
- Meals do not have to be elaborate; stick to basic menus that are appealing and comforting to the patient.
- Cooking extra portions for the next day can save time.
- Encourage socialization at meal time which can help with both intake and mood.
As Hippocrates said ‘Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.’
Abbott Nutrition, makers of Ensure® and Glucerna®, is a worldwide leader in providing innovative nutritional products that help improve the quality of life and outcomes for patients. By forming powerful partnerships with home care agencies through its Feed the 485 program, the company is tackling a new goal: helping to reduce rehospitalizations with this revolutionary nutrition therapy initiative.