Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Smaller Bites To Eat Right: Enhancing Expertise To Dysphagia Care

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Dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing can affect individuals of all ages. It usually stems from various underlying conditions or injuries. Managing dysphagia through appropriate diets is crucial to ensure the safety, well-being and quality of life of those affected. However, misinterpretation of  varied terminologies for diets and fluids could potentially lead to the unintentional provision of food and liquids to patients with dysphagia.

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From global standards to local impact
Recognising the importance of addressing this issue, the Ministry of Health (MOH) introduced the EatSafe SG initiative in July 2022. EatSafe SG aims to provide a common language for everyone involved in caring for individuals with dysphagia. The goal? To ensure their safety, well-being, and quality of life through proper dietary management.

The cornerstone of EatSafe SG is the adoption of the International Dysphagia Diet Standardisation Initiative (IDDSI) framework. This global framework standardises diet and fluid terminologies, ensuring everyone speaks the same language when it comes to texture-modified foods and thickened fluids for individuals with dysphagia.

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St Luke's Hospital: Leading the Way in Dysphagia Education
St Luke's Hospital (SLH), a Learning Institute appointed by the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), has stepped up to support EatSafe SG. SLH launched a series of workshops designed for Community Care professionals who work with patients with dysphagia.

Take Cheryl Louisa Lim, a Nurse Educator at NTUC Health, for example. Cheryl is responsible for training care staff and nurses at her senior daycare. She enrolled in one of EatSafe SG’s workshops because she recognised the importance of the IDDSI framework and the invaluable training offered by SLH. 

“The courses are engaging and interactive, with skilled trainers guiding participants through hands-on practice. The approach was highly effective in reinforcing key points, making the learning process more enriching. The course also offered us a valuable chance to connect with peers from the community setting, fostering a collaborative learning environment,” says Cheryl.

But the impact doesn't stop with the participants — in Cheryl’s case, it made her more confident in training her care staff and nurses.

Staff Nurse Muhammad Hanif Bin Kamsani from Ghim Moh Active Ageing Centre (Care), Active Global Caregivers also had positive things to say about the takeaways he got from the course. “I now take a closer and keen look into various aspects of food handling and nutrition and will continue to make changes or improvements to improve our quality of care.” Hanif strongly recommends the course to Community Care professionals, as he believes that a larger pool of trained personnel will positively impact the broader population, elevating the standard of care, and ensuring better outcomes for those in need.

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Providing a safer dining experience for dysphagia patients
The range of EatSafe SG courses under SLH caters to different skill levels and objectives. These courses empower Community Care professionals to understand diet texture and fluid labels, perform tests to assess dietary levels, and prepare meals that adhere to IDDSI standards while maximising nutritional value. Here are a few courses that Community Care professionals can consider:

EatSafe SG Basic Hands-on Workshop
Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Reinforce their understanding of new diet texture and fluid labels and descriptors
  • Perform diet texture and fluid tests to assess which IDDSI levels they fit into
  • Demonstrate accurate preparation of fluid textures
  • Understand strategies to adapt food to meet various IDDSI levels

EatSafe SG Advanced Hands-on Workshop
Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Reinforce the safety implications and importance of adhering to IDDSI standards in healthcare institutions
  • Learn how to conduct audits and provide training for basic hands-on skills for thickening, syringe tests, and diet texture mapping

EatSafe SG Food Preparation Skills Class (Facilitated by SLH partner, NTUC FoodFare)
Upon completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Prepare diets that meet IDDSI Framework Standards
  • Modify diets using a range of kitchen equipment provided
  • Employ strategies to retain and maximise the nutritional value of meals
  • Demonstrate the ability to prepare three dishes that meet the three minimum diet levels for institutions

EatSafe SG is not just a healthcare initiative; it's a community effort to improve the quality of life for individuals with dysphagia. Empowering more professionals like Cheryl and Hanif can elevate the standard of care and ensure better outcomes for those in need.

Yvonne Lau, Head of St Luke's Academy and St Luke's Community Wound Centre, says, "We believe that education and training for healthcare professionals are pivotal in building dysphagia knowledge and capability in the community setting."

For a complete list of courses available from SLH, please visit AIC’s Learning Network Course Marketplace website. Under the “All Learning Institutes” drop-down list, select “Learning Institute – St Luke’s Hospital (SLH)” to explore the comprehensive range of EatSafe SG courses tailored for Community Care professionals in managing dysphagia effectively.

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