Background Palliative patients have a number of dietary concerns. The first step to good nutrition care is nutrition assessment. The PLANT tool, developed with the support of a multidisciplinary team, highlights problems that affect the intake, digestion and assimilation of food and overall quality of life. It has been offered to the community and in-patient unit teams of a hospice for use.
Methods a restrospective review of 30 randomly chosen PLANT tools filled in the last 6 months was done. Hospice staff were asked to give feedback about its’ use.
Results 13% of patients had special dietary requirements and 13% food allergies and intolerances. 77% had lost weight while 23% had gained weight. 70% of patients were concerned about their weight. In 73% of cases current weight was recorded, while BMI was calculated in only 33%.
Symptoms in order of frequency were: fatigue 100%, dry mouth 87%, sadness or depression 87%, reduced appetite 83%, flatulence 83%, sleep problems 80%, constipation 77%, taste or smell changes 73%, nausea 73%, abdominal bloating 67%, abdominal pain 63%, belching 63%, sore mouth/throat 60%, hiccups 60%, vomiting 53%, loneliness or isolation 53%, diarrhoea 43%, nocturnal defaecation 43%, heartburn/acid reflux 33%.
Hospice healthcare professionals found the tool innovative and useful. However, some thought it was inappropriate to ask palliative care patients about weight and eating related symptoms and voiced their concern that it would cause unnecessary distress to patients. Furthermore, some of the staff thought that it was adding to their workload by having to fill in yet another tool.
Conclusions The PLANT tool can help to identify key symptoms that affect the nutritional state and overall life-state of patients. More work is needed to increase awareness amongst healthcare professionals of the impact of nutrition problems on patients’ health, disease and sense of wellbeing.
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