The Meal Tray…’Food for Thought’


I like to analyse all aspects of care from the person with dementia’s perspective. I have realised that there are some fine details that are potentially being missed and should be talked about.

Hospital Meals:

In hospital the food tray is delivered to the bed by someone from the catering department. The nurse (or nurse special) is given the task of ensuring the patient has their food. If the nurse does not know much about dementia, they may not be aware that the person may be incapable of using cutlery and feeding themselves. When Bob was in hospital he was so medicated he could not physically feed himself or use cutlery. He literally would just sit over the tray and look at it.The nurse would encourage him to eat his food and place the tray in front of him but actually have no idea that Bob was incapable of eating without assistance. The barely eaten tray would then be collected by catering staff and I believe if we were not there, would be none the wiser.

I am not trying to point blame, but highlight how a lack of knowledge about dementia can cost someone their meal and potentially could result in the doctor making a medical decision in the future if it was reported that the patient was not eating their food. When in fact they did not know HOW to eat their food.

Containers with lids are also common in hospital. I would suggest that dementia patients may not eat these as they do not have a clue how to open them. eg fruit containers/yoghurt etc…

Are ‘dementia friendly’ meals a silly idea for people with dementia in hospital?

Nursing Homes:

I recently watched a resident not eat his meal because he was unable to judge the distance his bowl was away from him. He struggled with his spoon and also finding the soup. He gave up eventually and the carer went to take the bowl away as he felt the man didn’t like it or was not hungry. I gave the man some bread and he dipped it in the soup and really enjoyed it. The carer jumped in and fed him with his spoon and he finished the entire bowl. This needed to be written on notes that the man now needs assistance.

Hygiene: Time often permits when moving residents in and out for meals in the nursing home. The antibacterial gel probably should be a standard procedure before a meal is served. Even if the gel is nearby the majority of residents would have no idea what it is or what it does, and would need reminding.

What are your thoughts on the meal process??

2 thoughts on “The Meal Tray…’Food for Thought’

  1. Hi Brett
    We met last week in Adelaide at the breakfast talk i gave and Ive finally had a few minutes to look at your website and blog.
    Its great !! and in this post you highlight what dietitians see every day. Its fabulous when carers, family members and just anyone who cares enough and who takes the time to observe and if possible, assist.
    I struggle a lot of the time being able to provide the nutritional support needed because of hospital/aged care systems and budgets. The reality is that it is people like you, there day to day, who need to shine a light on these issues and help people living with dementia to enjoy dignity as well as not go hungry. And I completely agree with you about the value of food assistants – your post about the value of these fabulous people is perfect – you remind me to elevate their importance more when I speak!
    It was lovely to meet you and well done with this blog!
    cheers, Ngaire

  2. Hi Ngaire,

    Sorry for the late reply, I only just found your comment. Your feedback really means a lot to me and I thank you for taking the time to read the blog and comment. I wrote 12 pages of notes at the breakfast seminar on your nutrition presentation alone which means

    1. there was plenty of valuable information
    2. I know next to nothing about nutrition:)

    As I said on the day – your smooth presentation style was seamless and very enjoyable to listen to.

    I hope to catch up with you again one day and maybe we will end up on the same stage with a presentation in the future?.

    All the best


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