July 27, 2011

A Spoonful of Sugar: Dietary Safety in the Hospital

This past week has been a bit of an unexpected emergency. My Grandmother had been home from the hospital for only 2 or 3 hours (after monitoring some worrisome shortness of breath) when she had a small stroke right in front of us. Even though you know what’s happening it’s hard to not panic, at least a little. She’s a big age and surprisingly strong for her age but strokes are strokes. She really really didn’t want to go back to the hospital but after an hour or so of the ambulance men and my family trying to convince her of the necessity she finally agreed.

The reason I am telling you this is because my grandmother is Diabetic which means that she has to take insulin tablets everyday and follow a Sugar Free diet. Diabetes is a growing concern in the western world as sugar and fat continue to creep into all of our food, unnecessarily, filling every bite. It is also a common disease among the elderly. So one would think that hospitals, of all places, would be completely up-to-scratch when it comes to dietary needs ... Not so, it would seem.

I saw recently that some hospitals have helpful little cards hung over patients to notify the staff of dietary needs such as ‘fasting’ etc. But in the large hospital where my Grandmother was staying there was nothing of this sort. Almost every single meal she was brought had at least one item which was non-diabetic, unsuitable, sugary food. Sometimes it was sugar filled jelly, custard or even ice cream(!) for deserts. White bread with her breakfast. Jams with her tea and even cookies! The one that topped it all off for me was when they would repeatedly bring her her medication and grind up the tablets into non-diabetic yoghurt (aka sugar filled yoghurt).

I think that you would have to search hard to find a clearer example of disorganization. Luckily between my Mom and aunts there was always somebody sitting with her to remind the staff that she is diabetic and likewise they had to take back her meals and replace them almost every single time. It’s fine and was fine because her family were there to protect her and remind the staff but what about all the people who are on their own? Or all the people who are unaware, and fully trusting of the system? And what about all the patients who possibly have food allergies with severe reactions? What procedures are in place? I hate to think about it.

The nurses and hospital staff were very nice to my Grandmother and they were always apologetic and quick to replace the food but I write this today to remind everybody yet again, that you must always be on top of your game. Even when you’re sick in the hospital, no matter what your age. Even when you’re dietary needs, food allergies and/or food restrictions are completely understood ... Even when you remind people daily ... If you are not preparing it yourself you HAVE to be extremely careful and unfortunately, distrusting of all the food you are given.

It is your health, and believe me, nowhere is completely safe.


sorcha said...

I'm very sorry to hear about your grandmother. I hope she's doing better now.

And I'm surprised about the hospital food. It just goes to show you need to be vigilant about your allergies and intolerances at all times!

Aurea@Survival Guide said...

Thank you so much Sorcha. She is, thankfully doing much better now and even the slight disintegration of her speech is improving!
But yes, I was surprised as well. I almost expect such difficulties with food allergies but would have thought that procedures for something like Diabetes would be safeguarded

Harini said...

So sorry to know this! Nutrition is such an important part of health care, and I can't imagine that Hospitals can be so negligent. You are right about food. Since it is our body, we are the ones who should take complete care! Hope your Grandmother is doing fine now.

Aurea@Survival Guide said...

Thanks for your comment Harini. She is doing better everyday which is a relief. But I was thoroughly surprised too! I would like to think of a hospital a 'safe' place but I suppose we must always remember that people are people and therefore human error is always in the equation.