Loss of appetite is a common problem for patients who are sick or in pain, especially those battling long-term or terminal disease. It is also a side effect of many medications and treatments, such as chemotherapy. Patients report a strange metallic taste in the mouth with certain diseases and medications. Sometimes, food and the act of eating itself is unappealing for those with psychological or mental illness such as major depression.
Whatever the reason, the consequence of a poor appetite is that the patient doesn’t eat properly and, therefore, their diet lacks nutrients the body badly needs for healing and restoration. This is a big challenge for CNAs tasked with making sure their patient stays well nourished.
The following 11 S's are a helpful guide for nursing assistants who want to improve their patient's appetite:
When you can’t tickle the taste buds to make your patient eat, appealing food presentation can do the trick.
Think of your favorite restaurant and how they present food. Not only does the food taste good, but the way they arrange the table and your food on the plate is enough to set the mood for enjoyment.
This is why posh restaurants go to such great lengths to wow patrons with their plating skills. There is no need to be that elaborate, but do put some effort into perking up your patient's mood for meals.
Part of tasting is smelling and that's a fact. Ask anyone who lost their sense of smell and they'll tell you that food tastes bland.
So, for this tip, you need to do two things: avoid giving foods with strong unappealing odors and serve more foods that smell wonderful.
Take garlicky recipes out of your list as well as brussel sprouts, aged cheese, and fermented foods. Bring out freshly baked bread and pastries, grilled meat, and desserts with cinnamon or vanilla.
If you have to level up your appetite-stimulating game a bit, bank on a good set of herbs and spices to help you out. Seasonings can enhance the taste of food and mask bitter tastes.
Make mealtimes special. Encourage socialization by organizing a group meal, because eating with others also makes meals enjoyable.
5. Soft or easy to eat
Patients with a poor appetite usually do not have the motivation for complicated eating tasks, for example, cracking crab legs and picking at the meat, so prepare something easier to eat. Slice meat and fruits into bite-sized portions and serve softer foods.
Fruit and vegetable smoothies are tasty and refreshing, especially if you know the right combinations. Try adding milk and oats for a more nutrient-rich drink.
Some yummy combinations to try are strawberry-banana, mango-banana, and cucumber-lemon and honey. You may sneak in a few veggies of your choice, such as spinach or cauliflower, without altering the taste.
Seeds like flaxseeds, sesame, hemp, pumpkin, and chia seeds are bursting with important nutrients that will benefit the patient, and they give an added texture and zest. You may also add seeds to fruit and vegetable smoothies and shakes.
8. Set time for exercise.
Exercise makes people hungry since their body spent energy that needs to be replenished through eating. Schedule exercise about an hour before meals to help stimulate their appetite.
Perhaps one of the most important tips is to empathize with your patients. It is not easy to lose one of the most natural sources of joy, eating a good meal, so be extra supportive when they’re having a hard time.
Ask about their favorite foods and what they like or dislike about their food. Remember their preferences during meal preparation. Never force them to eat, but always be encouraging.
Offer meals at particular times of the day. Do not rely on their appetite before you prepare food, or else they will barely eat. Tell them the specific times food will be served and remind them that meals are part of their treatment plan.
11. Small and frequent
Rather than serving three fully-loaded meals each day, try cutting down serving sizes so that they eat smaller portions five or six times a day. Eating smaller meals more frequently will also help with nausea, which usually accompanies poor appetite.
We know that good nutrition is an important part of the care plan, and poor appetite is a stumbling block to reaching that goal. It’s wonderful when CNAs become creative and put more effort into meal preparation to help their patients eat.
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