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Fraser Health shakes up menu at Peace Arch, Eagle Ridge hospitals

New homemade-milkshakes protocol aims to bolster patient nutrition levels
Gilma Johnson (left) Quality Lead at Eagle Ridge Hospital, and Kendra Harding, licensed practical nurse. (Contributed photo)

Fraser Health is shaking up its protocol for how patients at the highest risk of malnutrition are cared for at two of its hospitals, including Peace Arch Hospital.

According to a news release, patients older than 65 and those with unintended weight loss within the past three months will be among those receiving homemade protein-rich milkshakes for at least the first three days of their stay at PAH and Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody.

The protocol was put in place in response to Canadian Malnutrition Task Force studies that found up to half of all adult patients are malnourished upon hospital admission. However, while a prevalent condition, malnutrition is only diagnosed in eight per cent of hospitalized patients.

As well, up to 31 per cent of malnourished patients and 38 per cent of well-nourished patients experience nutritional decline during their hospital stay, according to the task force.

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The first three days are key, the task force says, as shortness of breath, delirium, infections, weakness and general low appetite related to being acutely ill may impair a patient’s eating ability.

Putting the new milkshakes on the menu is about “looking at food as medicine,” Eagle Ridge quality lead Gilma Johnston says in the release.

“Patients might not feel like eating, but many will drink something, and with a milkshake, they are getting protein, calories and fluids.”

The shakes are also easier to ingest for patients who come in with shortness of breath and need to wear a mask, and are a less overwhelming nutrition option for those dealing with delirium, adds licensed practical nurse Kendra Harding-Belcourt.

All Fraser Health hospitals initially started giving patients a commercially produced protein shake. Johnston said her team asked to start making their own after discovering the commercial product didn’t work for all patients.

The homemade shakes are currently available in strawberry, chocolate and vanilla flavours. Additional shakes are being tested, and a plant-based version is planned for the future.

The milkshake regime starts on the first day of hospital admission, with patients receiving two servings per day for three consecutive days.

Then, patients are screened for malnutrition and a dietitian referral is made for ongoing support if they are identified as being at risk.

Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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