A Robert Gordon University (RGU) student dietitian has been given a flavour of dementia care during a work placement in the Highlands.
Nutrition and Dietetics student Catherine Tosh recently completed the first pilot placement of a student dietitian in a care home setting in Scotland.
Catherine (20) spent two days a week at Urray House in Ross-shire over a five week period this autumn.
There she carried out an audit of nutritional care plans, completed a case study review of a resident and presented her findings to staff and dietetic colleagues.
She also developed her communication skills and understanding of the challenges in engaging with residents who have dementia alongside the home’s activities co-ordinator Fiona Barclay.
Catherine said: “Dementia patients are often hard to engage in conversation and often find it difficult to recall recent events or express their views when asked.
“However, we spent a few hours trying to tap into memories of residents by asking them to discuss their recollections of mealtimes, special occasions and their favourite foods.
“The results of this exercise were astonishing, as they rekindled thoughts of family mealtimes and favourite foods. One resident, normally a very quiet lady, became actively involved in the conversation, articulating herself really well. She came alive when we were talking. It was wonderful to see.”
The residents were asked to help create a favourite menu and Urray House’s cook, Muriel Fotheringham, prepared it for a themed day on Catherine’s last day. It contained Scotch broth, Rabbit stew followed by Clootie dumpling for pudding.
Denise Scott, manager at Urray house, said: “Having a focussed discussion around food memories is a great way of engaging with dementia residents and their families.
“It gives them a voice in choosing their favourite menus and we followed up with a themed meal. Everyone can participate, have fun and enjoy the memory.”
Evelyn Newman, nutrition and dietetics advisor for care homes with NHS Highland, said Catherine’s placement was a great success due to her hard work, interest in the care of the residents and the support she had from Dietetics and Urray House staff.
Evelyn said: “A huge amount has been achieved in a relatively short space of time and we hope to continue to offer care home placements to student dieticians in the Highland.
“The themed lunch tapped into the memories of some of our hard to reach residents and it’s great to see how everyone in the home helped to bring the event to fruition.
“The learning from the audit and Catherine’s work is being shared across care homes, both in Highland and more widely across Scotland by NHS Education for Scotland and RGU, which will benefit many more residents in the future.”
“It provides an opportunity to extend the role of the dietitian, and supports learning about the sociology of food and developing communication skills with different groups.
“The placement was also an excellent example of partnership working between different agencies, supporting the move towards achieving the Scottish Government’s 2020 vision of integration of health and social care.”
Ross AndersonCommunications Officer | Health and Sport