Food as a source of comfort and mealtimes as a social occasion form an important part of our lives, and understanding the role of nutrition and hydration in patients with a life-limiting condition is a key aspect of palliative care.

When patients are nearing the end of their lives, changes in their eating and drinking patterns can be stressful for them. Families can also find it hard when their loved one isn’t as hungry or thirsty. Preparing food for our patients here at the Hospice is a fine balancing act of providing a wide variety of fresh homemade dishes that also meet patients’ individual needs.

In 2022-23 a total of 630 patients were cared for in our 15-bed In-Patient Unit – each with different needs, tastes and dietary requirements. Much of the fresh produce is grown here at the Hospice, thanks to our patient gardening group and volunteer gardeners who help to grow and harvest plants at our allotment at The Well.

Our patient menu features softer food, such as Angel Delight, ice cream and soup, which become easier options if swallowing is difficult. Meals are also smaller to help manage breathlessness during eating. Whilst we have a full menu for patients, flexibility is so important when our patients often have little appetite, so meals can be requested at a time that suits them.

Megan, Ward Hostess, is responsible for delivering those meals to the patients and she told us one the most rewarding parts of her job is seeing the delight on a patient’s face after a good meal.

Megan said, “Many of them haven’t eaten in ages and I come in and provide them with a meal, and it might just be a small dish and it might be something plain and simple, but their eyes light up and they tell me how much they enjoyed it.”

Our Hospice kitchen and café also cater for families, carers and visitors, to ensure they are looked after at a time when they may not consider their own needs. We’re very much supporting them too.