Eating while in hospital, in care homes or if you rely on someone else for your meals

Eating nutritious food and getting enough to drink whilst in hospital is important to speed up recovery. In a care home or your own home, it’s important that you enjoy your food, have enough to eat and drink, and get the help you need to eat and drink when you need it.

What to expect

Everyone when they are admitted into hospital or a care home should expect to be weighed. This is an important measurement that tells if patients are undernourished and if they need a special diet, gadgets or implements to make eating easer. If there is concern about your nutritional status, you should expect to have a nutritional assessment from either a specially trained nurse or a dietitian.

It’s sometimes tricky when someone else provides your food. It is important that you tell them:

  • If you need help with eating or drinking.
  • The food that you like and what you don’t like
  • How you like food cooked, for example vegetables hard or well done?
  • Portion size
  • When you like to eat your main meal.
  • Don’t be worried about asking what happens if you miss a meal or need an extra snack.

As a friend or relative

  • As a relative or friend, don’t be shy to ask if the person has eaten all their meals.
  • Ask for additional food service if they are hungry or have missed a meal.
  • If you are worried about food or fluid intake, mention it to staff.
  • If you feel that the cared for person is losing weight, mention it to staff until your concerns have been addressed.

Sometimes it can be challenging when we are in environments where other people are responsible for providing the food that we eat.

  • Food packaging should be easy to open.
  • Finger food should always be available.
  • There should be help available for people who are unable to feed themselves.
  • Food should be available to meet religious or cultural needs and special diets.
  • You should expect to receive the help that you need to eat your food.

The Care Quality Commission [link: https://www.cqc.org.uk/] over sees the standard of food in hospitals and care homes. There is also an inspection called PLACE for hospitals. These reports indicate if nutrition and hydration is an organisational priority.

Support with eating and drinking

Sometimes we need help to eat and drink. This can be overlooked in hospitals, care homes and domiciliary care, but also by our friends and family at home. Sometimes, if we see people struggling to eat we feel a bit uncomfortable offering to help. Older people also feel uncomfortable to ask for help.

Here’s some practical ideas which can help:

  • Be respectful of dignity
  • Get over your own embarrassment
  • Check the person sitting is in the best position for eating
  • Make sure the person who needs help feels comfortable – sit down and be at the same level as them
  • Ensure the person is in control of their meal – asking what they would like, for example meat with vegetables.
  • Ensure food is cut into bite size pieces
  • Have a chat while they eat, give them time to chew and enjoy their meal