20 November 2017

Shropshire’s two acute hospitals are introducing finger foods specially designed for patients with dementia.

From left, Sarah Selley (Dementia Support Worker), Nicola White (Deputy Catering Manager) Nick Parkin (Catering Manager) and Karen Breese (Dementia Clinical Specialist) with the new finger food

The launch of the Butterfly Finger Foods is the latest innovation from The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH), which runs the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH) in Telford and the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH).

People with dementia often experience problems with eating and drinking. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important as it can help them maintain their physical and mental wellbeing. In the later stages of dementia the most important thing is making sure the person living with dementia takes on a higher-calorie diet as appropriate to their need.

To help with this Karen Breese, Dementia Clinical Specialist at SaTH, has teamed up with the Trust’s Catering Department to create small packs of finger food, which will be available to patients at any time of the day or night.

To create the packs, Karen worked with Barbara Hodkinson from the Butterfly Scheme, which provides a system of hospital care for people living with dementia, as well as patients and their carers.

Karen said: “The idea behind the snack boxes is to provide small amounts of fresh food over a 24-hour period to supplement regular meal times.

One of the new snack boxes

“The packs contain things like small, bite-sized sandwiches and small pieces of pork pie which a patient can pick at when they are hungry.

“Patients with dementia often experience problems with eating and drinking, so we wanted to provide something that is available whenever they need it. For instance, a patient may be awake for much of the night, so having snacks available then is a real boost.

“We want to increase the calorie intake of patients in our care who have dementia by 500 calories a day, and this is the first step towards that.”

The snack boxes are being trialled on Ward 10 at PRH before being rolled out to other wards across the Trust.

Next month, Karen and her team will also be trialling the provision of milky afternoon drinks, made using whole milk, to increase the calorie intake of patients with dementia. This will be trialled on Ward 4 at PRH.

Nick Parkin, Senior Catering Manager at SaTH, said: “We are delighted to be helping Karen with this fantastic initiative. The Catering Department at SaTH takes pride in contributing to the health of our patients, visitors and staff.”

The snack boxes are just the latest in a series of innovations introduced by SaTH for people with dementia in recent years, including:

  • The Butterfly Scheme, which uses a butterfly symbol to quickly and discreetly identify patients with dementia or confusion.
  • The Carer’s Passport, encouraging carers to visit and stay with patients living with dementia in order to provide reassurance, support, and help with eating and drinking and other day-to-day activities.
  • John’s Campaign, allowing the families and carers of people with dementia to remain with patients in hospital for as long as possible.
  • This Is Me, a leaflet that people living with dementia can use to tell staff about their needs, preferences, likes, dislikes and interests.
  • Twiddlemuffs, thick hand muffs with bits and bobs attached to the inside and out which are designed to provide a stimulation activity for restless hands for patients with dementia.
  • Dementia-Friendly Café – held once a month at PRH with plans to introduce a similar café at RSH to allow people with dementia and their carers to get together over coffee and cake to talk about their experiences.