Patients affected by dementia at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor are receiving extra support to ensure they eat well and stay hydrated in hospital. Food is now being served on brightly coloured blue plates which have been introduced specifically to help people with dementia in the hospital.

Earlier this year staff from different departments worked together to successfully create a new dementia friendly ‘orange colour’ menu, which includes finger food alternatives.

Individuals affected by dementia often experience visual problems, including not being able to distinguish between different colours. If the crockery is of similar colour to the food being served then a person with dementia may not be able to see the contrast and recognise the food that is there to be eaten.

Delyth Thomas, Dementia Specialist Nurse, said the new plates are helping to increase the appetite of patients. She said: “Dementia is not all about memory loss, it can affect all aspects of daily living.

“Dementia presents itself differently to every individual diagnosed, depending on the type of dementia, which part of the brain has been affected, in addition to one’s own unique personality and their lived environment.

“Some people affected by dementia may encounter problems relating to sight causing damage to the visual system, in turn causing visuoperception difficulties.

“If a person with dementia has contrast –sensitivity loss and has a reduced appetite from not eating enough, research has discovered that making the food stand out visually by implementing brightly coloured background such as a blue plate is known to increase appetite by 25%.”

Ann Jones, Clinical Specialist Speech and language Therapist said: “Also included is a picture book, this provides the patient with the opportunity to make a better choice by providing the real picture to support their decision process.

“When the patient is unable to retain information from verbal instructions, providing a picture enforces this and they can point even when it becomes difficult to speak.”

Nicholas de Mora-Mieszkowski, also a Clinical Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, added: “The addition of the blue plates and picture book to the orange finger food menu will prove extremely beneficial to patients affected by dementia”.

He said: “It is great to celebrate the addition of the blue plates as well as the excellent ongoing work of the dementia team.

“I’m really pleased to announce that inappropriate referrals for patients with dementia to Speech Therapy have continued to stay down since the establishment of the orange menu.

“The ongoing work to help our patients with dementia, in particular those experiencing delirium, to continue to eat as normal as possible is hugely important.

“In Ysbyty Gwynedd patients are supported to meet their nutrition and hydration needs by colleagues adapting around the patient and matching their needs.

“Hopefully this good practice will continue to spread across the Health Board and into our partners in private nursing and care facilities. It can only mean better outcomes for people with dementia.”