Protected mealtimes

Hospital meal time

Are Protected meal times a recipe for disaster ?

I have always been a believer in “You are what you eat” and that good nutrition is important for everyone. I work hard to maintain a healthy diet for the elderly people I care for as a home-help and the subject of good nutrition for them is one dear to my heart.

Whilst researching Nutrition and hydration week I was reminded of “protected mealtimes” in NHS hospitals. Whilst on the face of it, closing the ward to visitors to enable patients to eat uninterrupted is a good idea it also has some potential pitfalls.

When my partially sighted Mother-in-Law was admitted to hospital with two broken collar bones had I not been available to visit at meal times she would have definitely gone hungry.

Her food tray was left out of reach and bearing in mind both arms were in a sling she was incapable of reaching it, let alone cutting the food and feeding herself. That was 12 years ago when staffing levels were better than they currently are.

I also think that visitors play an important part in encouraging someone elderly to eat. The lids to the soup and ice-cream tubs are often so tight they can’t manage to remove them and need help doing so!

A visitor may also help keep an elderly person awake long enough to eat something. It is not uncommon for someone to miss a meal completely by sleeping through it. Obviously in an ideal world, staffing levels need to be increased to ensure that anyone who needs help/feeding receives it.

Another factor is that in some hospitals the menu for the next day is often left on the meal tray. Many elderly people miss this or forget to order leaving them without food choices the next day.

Good food promotes better recovery, so what will little or no food do ?

“Good nutrition week” was in March and focussed on afternoon tea and the three meals, two snack regime for the elderly. However with a budget of less than £5 per DAY per hospital patient I wonder where the funding will come from, with NHS funds being currently being cut to fund social care I see a problem !


Award-winning blogger and former care columnist for Devon Life magazine. I am passionate about helping elderly people and people with dementia live purposeful and independent lives.
Designer of the Dementia Assistance Card and Points Of Light award recipient, Caron hopes to help carers when resources are limited and demand is ever-increasing. I am here to support you.

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