People with late-stage dementia often struggle with dysphagia, the inability to properly swallow. While making purees, gels, and other softer versions of traditional meals can help patients get the nutrition they need, these foods can also end up tasting bland and looking anything but edible.
At most hospitals and nursing homes, patients who have trouble chewing or swallowing are presented with unidentifiable lumps of pureed mush, which is neither appetizing nor exciting (unless you enjoy a good game of taste-bud roulette). Some patients, whose dementias have progressed to a certain state, might not even recognize that these bland blobs are food at all.
In an effort to help their patients recognize the food they’re eating and to encourage them to eat it, St. Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, is taking a different approach to pureed food. They’re putting the blended mixtures into food-shaped molds that mimic what the item originally was.
The hospital employs several different molds, including one for carrots, peas, fish fillets, slices of pumpkin, and more. Once the pureed foods are placed in the molds, they’re frozen so that they’ll keep their shape and then removed from the molds. When it’s time to eat, the molded foods are plated and re-heated. Finishing touches like sauces and gravies are then added for taste and appearance. They also function as fortifiers for extra nutrition.
When these meals are served to people with dementia and others who have trouble chewing and swallowing, the patients are much more eager to eat and seem to be happier with their food. Check out the video below to see how the hospital goes about using these molds to make food that’s as appetizing as it is nutritious!
Thank you to the staff of St. Vincent’s Hospital for putting in the extra effort to help people get the nutrition they need without sacrificing what they enjoy about their favorite dishes.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?