Calorie boosting is a part of good care

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Carmel with a resident
Carmel with a resident

Nutritionist, Carmel, champions calorie boosting as part of good care.

Israeli born clinical nutritionist Carmel Berke, 30 of Prestwich grew up in Helsinki in the Finnish capital’s small Jewish community and came to Manchester nine years ago after meeting her solicitor husband Daniel in Israel.

In 2009 she took up her studies at Manchester Met in Clinical Nutrition qualifying in 2013 and is now concentrating on developing her private practice.

Approaching the end of her course Carmel felt it was important to be able to share her expertise on a voluntary basis and signed up as a volunteer for The Fed. During June in that capacity, she undertook a period of meal-time observations at the charity’s Heathlands Village care home, to help identify areas where practical changes could be made to encourage better nutrition amongst its 170 plus residents and Moorview Independent Living tenants

Carmel said,

“I have previously given talks to care and catering staff at Heathlands Village about common nutrition and hydration problems and to The Fed’s mental health Drop In members about how certain foods can affect the break-down and effectiveness of medication.

Fortunately The Fed already appreciate the importance of being “nutritionally aware” and have appointed key care staff at Heathlands Village as “nutritional champions” to take the lead in this area and advise colleagues. In caring for older people they know that serious health issues could arise from poor nutrition or dehydration. That’s why they’ve made this a priority.

But the general public don’t necessarily understand that even a small cold could be fatal to someone who is malnourished. Malnutrition leads to an impaired immune response and often leads to several health complications. 

And good hydration is equally important. Part of the natural aging process means people lose the perception of thirst. They need to be offered liquids often as dehydration can affect their cognition and balance which can lead to falls.

There are a number of things which can affect people’s appetites – tremors which make it difficult to hold food on the spoon or fork; embarrassment which makes them reluctant to accept help from someone else with eating.

My aim in doing the observations was to assess if there were any practical changes which need to be made in the way food and drink is offered at Heathlands Village, to help find solutions to specific problems and suggest preventative mechanisms if there are difficulties with people eating and drinking too little or not having a properly balanced diet.

I was really impressed with how the Balcombe Hall dining room is set out in a restaurant-style with flowers on the table and cloths and napkins. Creating an inviting environment is an important starting point in encouraging people to eat well. When I spoke to residents they said they really liked it. It was all well managed with a menu that is generally broad with lots of choice.

I also met up with some of the nutritional champions and gave them reading material and advice about individual clients who they were concerned about and I’ll continue to be on hand for them as and when they need advice.

One area that cropped up is how to fortify meals for people with poor appetite so they take in as many extra calories as possible.

There were some areas where I’ll be making recommendations and I’m currently preparing a report for Alison Lightfoot who is The Fed’s Quality Assurance Manager. I think it’s great that The Fed took the initiative by appointing nutritional champions – not many homes have these – and I’m delighted to be able to support them.”

Chief Operating Officer Mark Cunningham added

“It’s very much part of The Fed’s ethos to leave no stone unturned. We are always looking at how to do things better and often that involves an objective outsider observing the way you do things and suggesting where improvements could be made.

We have also recently commissioned a report by consultants into our catering services, which includes looking at all of our systems, economy, general and specifically Jewish culinary needs. This will be completed imminently.

Good nutrition is paramount in the elderly. The combination of Carmel’s input and the fresh look at our catering department will help us ensure we are offering our residents tasty, nutritious Jewish food which is appropriate to people’s individual needs.”

Time For You volunteer services manager Juliette Pearce says

“Carmel’s involvement with The Fed shows how people with specialist skills, can bring great benefits to the people we look after. Regular, more typical, volunteer work, such as befriending, doesn’t suit everyone.”

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