Patients living with dementia at Ysbyty Gwynedd are now benefiting from a new friendlier food menu. Staff from different departments have been working together to create a new dementia friendly menu which now includes finger food alternatives.

Lesley Ann Davies, a dementia support worker at Ysbyty Gwynedd, highlighted the need for the Orange Finger Food menu.

She said: “My main concern was that individuals with dementia may not be able to eat full meals at regular times and may require finger food meal alternatives and snacks to be available at any time to optimise dietary input.”

Ysbyty Gwynedd’s Clinical Specialist Speech & Language Therapist, Nicholas de Mora-Mieszkowski says the new menu is hugely beneficial for patients with dementia.

He said: “This menu helps our patients to feed themselves when their condition means they may not recognise food otherwise or items like knives and forks. Being able to feed yourself is not only more dignified but it is safer.

“The neurological system is given more messages that you are about to have something to eat so your swallowing is better coordinated. When the swallow is better coordinated you are better able to manage normal foods and drinks.

“Swallowing is a skill, and as with anything else if we don’t use this skill we may lose the ability to swallow or it can deteriorate. Being able to offer food this way is preserving an essential body function for patients who are at very high risk of losing it if not appropriately supported.”

Anwen Weightman, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s Public Health Dietetic Assistant, said the menus have proved to be invaluable to dementia support workers on the hospital wards.

She said: “The orange menu offers a choice of the full hospital menu, finger foods and a variety of snacks. Many of the ambient snacks can be kept in between meals or night snacks if the patient may not have a regular meal pattern and needs to be offered little food more often throughout the day or they are awake during the night.

“Since we have introduced these menus the dementia support workers have found them to be invaluable on the ward encouraging the patient with a diagnosis of dementia to eat and it is also reassuring for the family or carers to see that they are being offered a choice at mealtimes.”