New program designed to help malnourished patients after hospital discharge

New program designed to help malnourished patients after hospital discharge

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - There’s a new program at New Hanover Regional Medical Center designed to help bridge the gap between the nutrition patients receive in the hospital and what they experience when they return home.

Nutrition interventions are put into place at the hospital when a patient is diagnosed with malnutrition. Many patients will improve during their hospital stay and then are discharged with instructions on how to properly maintain proper nutrition or rebuild strength and lean muscle mass.

Now, the hospital secured a grant to hire a clinical outreach dietitian to help patients in their home.

“We identified a gap in nutrition care once our patients were discharged,” said Angela Lago, NHRMC’s Manager of Clinical Nutrition. “After our malnourished patients left the hospital, we didn’t know if they had access to nutritious food, if family was able to help them obtain or prepare meals, if they were able to retain and implement the nutrition education they received, or if they were following the nutrition care plan that was created specifically to help them heal.”

The clinical outreach dietitian reinforces their nutrition plan of care and ensures they get connected to the resources they need to continue recovering at home.

“Nutrition is imperative for continued improvement in overall health and wellness,” Lago said. “We cannot expect our patients to bounce back from a trauma, stroke, fall, surgery or any other medical condition if their nutrition is inadequate. Nutrition is connected to everything.”

When patients don’t have access to food (also known as food insecurity) and are diagnosed with malnutrition, they may not heal or regain strength or regain functional ability to perform everyday tasks.

The hospital's initiative provides nutrition food boxes when a patient is discharged to help with continued recovery. Each box contains enough food to provide 2,000 calories per day for up to two weeks.

The food boxes were specifically designed to require little to no preparation, so patients with limited mobility and energy can easily prepare a meal or snack.

About 20 percent of NHRMC patients are estimated to be malnourished, so the health care system has shown support for the program by adding positions to the Clinical Nutrition team to assist with early identification and treatment of malnourished patients.

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