Another large area of need is support for people at mealtimes. Speech Pathologists, Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists are integral to assessment and training in this area.
Some areas of mealtimes to consider are
· texture of food,
· modification of utensils,
· modification of table/chair set up,
· seating position,
· assistance with getting the food to your mouth,
· adequate nutrition,
· risk of aspiration and critically, silent aspiration,
· social engagement,
· consideration of alternative nutritional means,
- drinks, and their viscosity,
- type of cup required,
· support person.
A recently published article in the International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology on mealtimes in nursing homes by Bennett, Ward & Scar, Mealtime management in Australian residential aged care: Comparison of documented, reported and observed care identified multi- layers of issues with how people were supported in nursing homes.
Issues ranged from nursing staff and nursing attendants being unaware of food texture needs, to lack of knowledge of preferred means of assistance, and lack of engagement in a social capacity as part of mealtimes. Other issues included information not being clear, or not being clearly available about individual’s needs and preferences at mealtimes.
How many of these issues are also relevant to people living in share accommodation, with support staff. This is even more concerning when casual staff work with individuals with high mealtime support needs.
It is imperative that everyone supporting an individual with high support mealtime needs, reads carefully all information provided by therapists, nutritionists, GP and specialist doctors. It is a team of knowledge that is required to ensure best practice. Ask for support and training if you are not sure.
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Michelle Katherine Bennett, Elizabeth Celeste Ward & Nerina Aimee Scarinci (2015) Mealtime management in Australian residential aged care: Comparison of documented, reported and observed care, International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 17:5,451-459, DOI: 10.3109/17549507.2014.987816