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Hospital shows that people with swallowing difficulties ‘can have their cake and eat it too’

PUBLISHED: 07:25 13 March 2019

Kate Harrall, principal speech and language therapist at the Ipswich hospital with some of the tasty treats on offer for those who have difficulty swallowing. Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY

Kate Harrall, principal speech and language therapist at the Ipswich hospital with some of the tasty treats on offer for those who have difficulty swallowing. Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY

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Patients tasted pureed teacakes and soaked battenberg at Ipswich Hospital during a special afternoon tea which aimed to highlight the difficulties faced by those with dysphagia ahead of Swallow Awareness Day.

Nurses who work with patients with gastro-intestinal problems were keen to sample the easy-to-swallow foods at Ipswich hospital. Picture: NEIL DIDSBURYNurses who work with patients with gastro-intestinal problems were keen to sample the easy-to-swallow foods at Ipswich hospital. Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY

While most people take the ability to eat and drink for granted, those with dysphagia (swallowing difficulties) can encounter a range of life-threatening issues including choking, dehydration, malnutrition and weight loss.

To mark Nutrition and Hydration Week, the speech and language team at Ipswich Hospital served up a selection of sweets treats in a variety of textures and blends on Monday, March 11.

Dysphagia affects people with a range of conditions, including 68% of those suffering from dementia in care homes and 65% of those who have had a stroke .

Kate Harrall, principal speech and language therapist at the hospital, said: “We wanted to show patients that they don’t have to be restricted - they can have their cake and eat it too.”

Tasty tiramisu and soft sponge cake were just some of the tasty treats on offer as Ipswich Hospital showcased foods which people who have difficulty swallowing can still eat. Picture: NEIL DIDSBURYTasty tiramisu and soft sponge cake were just some of the tasty treats on offer as Ipswich Hospital showcased foods which people who have difficulty swallowing can still eat. Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY

Denese Meers, who had an operation to remove a cancer from her tongue and underwent 30 sessions of radiotherapy as a result, said: “It’s been quite a journey, really. I am now eating normal meals such as roast dinners, haddock and potatoes and cauliflower cheese – provided they are blended - so I still get my nutrients and I am definitely putting the weight back on again.”

Denese is one of thousands of people who suffer from swallowing difficulties, but the team at Ipswich Hospital are determined to improve patients’ eating experiences.

Kate added: “Eating and drinking can be a source of enjoyment and we often celebrate occasions with food and drink such as an afternoon tea, or a dining experience at a restaurant.

“Many of the people I see with swallowing problems tell me that their enjoyment of food and drink can be altered and they may avoid social situations due to fear or embarrassment around their difficulties, resulting in social isolation.

The speech and language therapy team at the Ipswich Hospital with some of the food especially made for people with dysphagia. Picture: NEIL DIDSBURYThe speech and language therapy team at the Ipswich Hospital with some of the food especially made for people with dysphagia. Picture: NEIL DIDSBURY

“Once a patient said to me that they only ‘drank in an emergency’ and that’s when I realised how big the problem was and how important it was for us to do something.

“For this reason, keeping the texture in the foods was important as we wanted to make sure they can still enjoy the social engagement surrounding food. We are also working hard to get rid of the stigma surrounding blended food, as it can be tasty as shown by our blended cheesecake and puréed teacake.”

The hospital’s speech and language team is hoping to set up a ‘swallowing problems cafe’ in the near future. It hopes this will help people who suffer with dysphagia to feel more comfortable about eating out and will encourage them to continue trying to enjoy their food where possible.

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