Nutrition Champs spread good food advice to care homes

by Scott Douglas

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Scotland’s care regulator, the Care Commission, is spreading the Jamie Oliver-effect into care homes with a group of ‘Nutrition Champions’.

The Promoting Nutrition in Care Homes for Older People project was set up to provide an educational programme to help staff improve nutritional care for residents.

More than 50 so-called Nutrition Champions have now completed the programme with 86% of those rating it as very good or excellent.

The programme, led by the Care Commission’s Nurse Consultant for Care Homes for Older People Susan Polding-Clyde, involved a multi-disciplinary steering group with representatives from dieticians in NHS Scotland, Glasgow Caledonian University and Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret University and Scottish Government.

Susan said: “Making sure older people have nutritious food and drinks is fundamental to good care. Malnourishment is a serious, life-threatening issue for people who are already very frail.

“By bringing a fresh approach to nutrition, the lives of older people can be significantly improved. Simple steps such as presenting food more attractively, offering more of a choice on the menu and being more adaptable must be encouraged and I am glad our Nutrition Champions are making some headway in these areas.

“We have already seen how campaigns by the likes of Jamie Oliver can have a dramatic impact on the eating habits of schoolchildren and adults, so it’s very pleasing to see our own nutrition programme working with older people.”

The Care Commission was established in 2002 and regulates around 950 care homes for older people in Scotland. A report on the project found that Nutrition Champions who took part all came from different backgrounds in the care sector, from cooks and chefs to care assistants to managers.

The ‘Champions’ took part in a three-day nutrition course during which they learned about the wider aspects of food and nutrition and the importance of recognising the needs of every individual resident.

They also took part in a two-day ‘change management’ course, which gave them the knowledge and skills required to make a change in their care home. Each Champion has produced a summary of their project on what changes have been implemented in their home as a result of being involved in the programme.

More than half of those who took part said they could identify improvements in their knowledge or skills around nutrition. In one case, a Champion could not encourage a resident with dementia to eat breakfast.

She met with the resident’s daughter to ask her how her mum liked her toast and the daughter mentioned she always used heather honey in the past. The care worker switched to using heather honey on the resident’s toast and now she eats it every day.

Other homes found success by using laminated menus, putting flowers on dining tables and arranging set mealtimes so they wouldn’t coincide with other appointments. Susan added: “This initiative has been a great success” “For many people in care homes, meal times can be the highlight of the day so it is vitally important that these are both seen as enjoyable and as a social occasion.

 “The Nutrition Champions are now armed with the ideas, knowledge and confidence to make a real change to nutrition practices in their homes.” The Care Commission now hopes the programme can be repeated and promote the importance of good nutrition to more of the country’s care homes.

• Copies of the report Promoting Nutrition in Care Homes for Older People are available from http://www.carecommission.com or on request to the press office.

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