Finger food to encourage greater independence for dementia patients

A new finger food menu has proved such a hit with patients living with dementia that it is now being rolled out across Grimsby and Scunthorpe hospitals.

Dementia clinical nurse specialist David Welburn, ward 16 deputy ward sister Alison Panitz and deputy catering manager Graham Knight.

Nutrition, catering and nursing staff have worked together to create the special menu which has been piloted on a ward at Grimsby hospital. The results have been so amazing; with patients tucking into the finger foods that it is now being rolled out across the hospitals’ adult wards. It is hoped to also extend the scheme to Goole hospital.

David Welburn, dementia clinical nurse specialist, said: “Finger foods have become very helpful in encouraging people with dementia to enjoy food and drink again. As dementia progresses people often find cutlery difficult to manage, they can also find it difficult to manage a full meal.

“It provides an opportunity for patients who like to eat little and often the option of snacks mid-morning, afternoon and supper time.”

The menu features foods such as rice pudding, biscuits, pizza, cheese and crackers, sandwiches, spring rolls, fish fingers, cake and fruit which is all easy to nibble on.

David said: “By offering tempting treats we hope to preserve a dementia patient’s eating skills, by triggering their attention and physical interaction with the food, as well as enabling them to eat at their own pace.

“Progressive under-nutrition is particularly common among people with dementia, so if we can encourage patients to eat it will not only help with their recovery but also ensure mealtimes become a pleasurable experience,” said David.

Lisa Gilchrist, deputy ward sister at Grimsby hospitals ward B4, said: “Having a finger food menu for our patients with dementia is definitely a great idea as it provides them with choice. The picture menu is easy for them to understand and they can choose a selection of things that they can nibble on throughout the day.

“It gives them the independence to pick and choose what they eat and when. It not only improves nutrition and encourages independence, but it is also a matter of dignity. By introducing this new menu, patients don’t have to use cutlery at a time when some may have lost that ability due to the progression of their disease.”

Staff on ward at 16 Scunthorpe hospital have seen great results so far. Deputy ward sister Alison Panitz said: “We had a patient who came in who had eaten very little, if at all. We offered them the new dementia menu and they said they wanted chips which we ordered straight away. It was great as they tucked in and ate the lot.

“Having the additional menu for our dementia patients means we have the flexibility to offer them something different and mealtimes do not have to be regimented. They can pick and choose what they want and as it is finger food, they can eat little and often.”

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