Intensive care rehabilitation manual

Intensive care rehabilitation manual
Intensive Care Unit, Whiston Hospital
Tel: 0151 426 1600 Ext 2382
Intensive Care
Rehabilitation Manual
Patient Information
Whiston Hospital
Warrington Road
Prescot L35 5DR
page 2
page 2
Changes in mood
page 3
Changes in appearance
page 3
Your family and relationships
page 3
Sexual relationships following critical illness
page 4
Could it happen again?
page 4
Why can’t I remember what happened to me?
page 4
ICU Diaries
page 5
Exercising back to health
page 5
page 5
Physical recovery
page 7
page 7
page 9
Panic attacks
page 10
Negative Automatic Thoughts
page 11
page 12-18
page 18-21
After Intensive Care
When you have been ill, it can take quite a while to get back to feeling your normal
self. Exactly how long this will take will depend on things like the length of time you
have been ill, whether you have lost a lot of weight and whether your illness means
that you will have to change some aspects of your lifestyle. This section sets out to
describe some common problems that can occur and suggests simple ways you
may like to try to solve them. We should emphasise that this does not mean that you
will suffer from them, but a number of our patients do complain of problems in these
You may find that your sleeping pattern has changed. It may be more difficult to fall
asleep or your sleep may be broken. When your body is not active it does not need
as much sleep so, as you increase your activity, you should find your sleep pattern
returns to normal. You may find that a bath or shower shortly before going to bed
will help you to feel relaxed, making it easier to sleep. Practising relaxation will also
help. If you find you are napping during the day, make a conscious effort to stay
awake and your night time sleep should then start to improve. Many people find that
a bedtime drink is helpful but you should avoid tea, coffee and large amounts of
alcohol. Reading just before going to sleep can also be a good way of relaxing.
Being awake at night can be worrying, things easily seem to get out of proportion. It
is common for a small problem to seem unsolvable in the early hours when you are
the only person awake. This is quite normal but when you have been ill, it is often
harder to cope with things like this. You may find it helpful to read or listen to the
radio if you are awake at night, they may help you go to sleep. Finally, the most
important thing is not to worry about a lack of sleep, it won't actually do you any
harm and as you recover things will get back to normal.
Things that can make sleep worse
- Napping during the day
- Watching television in bed
- Using electronic devices, e.g. phones
- Caffeine, alcohol or nicotine
Things that can improve sleep
- Exercise (at a level you can manage)
- Relaxation exercises
- A consistent bedtime wind down routine
- A comfortable environment
Some of our patients are bothered by nightmares when they first leave the intensive
care unit or may have experienced them while in the critical care unit. They may be
very vivid and frightening. These usually subside over a few days or weeks and
again, it is quite normal to experience this. Similarly some patients experience
hallucinations or feelings that someone was trying to hurt them while they were in
intensive care. Again these memories are normal and are caused by a combination
of being ill and the drugs that are given to keep you comfortable. If you have had or
are having problems like this don’t keep it to yourself. You may find it helpful to talk
about these nightmares with family/friends or with the Intensive Care Rehabilitation
Nurse. You may find the patient support group helpful.
Changes in mood
Many patients complain of fluctuating moods, you may also feel very irritable for no
real reason at times. This again is a normal reaction to illness and will subside with
time. Knowing this won’t make the problem go away but perhaps it will be easier to
manage. If you have been very seriously ill or ill for a long time, you may find that
you are quite low for a while. Like the other problems we have described this will go
away and only rarely does it require special treatment. Sometimes it may seem that
any progress you make is unbearably slow.
Remember that a serious illness will leave you very weak and your body has a lot of
work to do to get back to being fit. It is important during this time, that you are
realistic in what you expect yourself to be able to do. If you set targets that are too
difficult for you to reach you will feel as though you have failed and this will make
you feel worse.
Changes in appearance
You may find that your appearance has changed as a result of being ill. Sometimes,
our patients suffer hair loss /bald patches where there was contact with the pillow or
a change in the quality of their hair. Similarly, the texture of your skin may change
and it is quite common to find that your skin has become much drier than before.
These changes are almost always temporary. You may also find that your finger
nails have a ridge across them. This happens because the nails can stop growing
when you are ill and then restart when you are recovering. The ridge will grow out
with time. You may also have some scars which you feel to be unsightly, these will
fade with time and as your skin returns to normal, they won't seem as obvious. You
may have also lost a lot of weight but with time, exercise and a sensible diet you will
get back to normal.
Coming to terms with what has happened to you does take time. It may help if you
can find someone to talk to about your experience.
Your family and relationships
This has also been a worrying time for your relatives. They may find it hard to
understand how you feel because the illness seems now to be in the past. They may
expect you to be as happy as they are that you are now getting better and they may
feel just as frustrated as you that progress is sometimes slow. You may find that
their attitude to you has changed. Seeing someone you love in intensive care can be
very upsetting as there are often lots of machines and strange noises around them
and relatives often feel helpless and frightened. They may have been worried that
you would not get better and this can take some people a long time to get over.
Sometimes, as a result of this, they become overprotective and you may feel that
you are able to do more than they will let you. If this becomes a problem for you
then you need to discuss your feelings with your relatives and come to a
compromise that both of you can cope with.
Sexual relationships following critical illness
Your illness may have reduced your sex drive and your partner may be concerned
that sex could be harmful for you and indeed you may even feel that yourself. You
will be able to return to your normal relationship but recognise that this may take
some time and patience from both of you. You should do as much as feels
comfortable. You may be concerned about the following: Will my scars be healed enough? , If I have to use a medical device, such as
a colostomy bag, or catheter.
 You may worry because you don’t know what will happen. If you’re worried
about your strength, compare the energy needed for sex with the energy you
need for your exercises.
 If you’re coping well with your exercises, you may be able to cope with sex.
Most people find it difficult to talk about sex, but try to relax and keep a sense
of humour. Cuddles are really important.
 Take things slowly and see what happens. If you experience any medical
problems such as impotence, or have any other questions about resuming
intimacy, talk to your GP or discuss with the rehabilitation team.
Could it happen again?
The majority of intensive care patients do not get readmitted to intensive care.
If your admission was due to an acute episode of a chronic illness, then that
question is harder to answer and needs to be asked of your GP.
Why can’t I remember what happened to me?
The drugs given to you to make you comfortable with the breathing machine in
intensive care and the fact of being so ill has the effect of making the memory very
hazy or completely absent.
While you may never remember exactly what happened, you can build up a picture
from your relatives and from the doctor when you come to clinic.
Sometimes although patients can’t remember being in intensive care they may find
that they feel panicky or get frightening pictures coming into their mind when they
see something that reminds them of being ill, for example, watching a medical
programme on TV. All that has happened is that the TV programme has prompted
you to remember some deep memories that you didn’t know you had. If this
happens to you and you are worried about it, it may help to talk to a member of your
family about it, or your GP. Usually these feelings and pictures gradually lessen as
time goes by.
ICU Diaries
Because we know that patients often can’t remember their stay in ICU, where
possible an ICU diary is kept with a photograph. If you received a diary and you
have any remaining questions about your stay, contact Emma Whitby Rehabilitation
Sister 0151 426 1600 Ext 2382.
Exercising back to health
The bad news
While you were ill your body took what it needed to survive from its stores in your
muscles. This means that all your muscles will have got smaller and weaker. This
happens very quickly when you are very ill but takes much longer to replace as you
are getting better.
Because of this you may find:
You feel tired very quickly even when you are just pottering about.
You have difficulty climbing stairs or have to take a break part way.
Your balance is not as good as it used to be.
The good news
You can rebuild your muscles back to what they were before and, in some cases, to
even better. But it takes work from you, it won’t happen by itself. The graded
exercise regime in this booklet has been designed to help you rebuild your strength,
improve your balance and flexibility and to regain your fitness. It has been written by
a physiotherapist, dietician and a nurse experienced in dealing with patients who are
recovering from serious illness.
Levels of stress that are healthy and good for you
We need a certain amount of stress to keep us going. Without any deadlines to get
things done we’d soon get depressed. Research has shown that too little excitement
is as bad for our health as too much. It’s when things get so stressful that we feel we
can’t cope anymore that life stops being enjoyable. Practising relaxation regularly
can make up for the stressful times during the day.
Too much stress
As our stress level rises it makes us feel tense, bad tempered, tired, pressurised
and fed-up. A row with someone, a loud bang, or a crisis that is soon over, these
things won’t hurt you in any way. But if there is nothing in your life except work and
worry, always being unable to switch off your responsibilities, never being able to
stop to relax, then that is bad for you.
What we have learnt about stress so far
Ordinary stress, that is, having goals to meet and things to do is good for us. It
makes us alert and awake. Even higher levels of stress that come from working hard
can be good for us. They make life worth living.
Stress causes problems when we cannot turn off these higher levels, or we work all
the time with no chance to rest, or if we feel worried and anxious a lot of the time.
We therefore have lost the balance between work and rest.
Feeling down?
It is quite common to feel miserable after being seriously ill. You may find that this
continues even after you get home. You may have no memory of being in intensive
care and so have only gradually learnt from your relatives, or through your diary,
how ill you have been. This can take time to sink in.
These feelings can come out in a variety of different ways:-
Sadness, either all the time or just suddenly every now and again
Not being able to enjoy things anymore or lack of interest in doing things
Poor appetite
Tearfulness, sometimes just out of the blue.
How to make a change
 One easy solution to not having enough time to spend with friends and family or
doing enjoyable things is to make time. You may have to reason with yourself and
others to keep these times free. Part of the reason for this is that many people
were brought up to think that there is something sinful or wasteful about “just
mucking about”. Or you may find that having spent your life always being busy
you don’t know how to do things “just for fun”.
 But making time to do things for fun is important to good mental and physical
Getting control of your workload
Once your doctor gives you the OK then a normal working day will not hurt you,
unless your doctor has advised you that your present job is too physically
demanding. But if you are under constant pressure at work then this could become a
problem. If you have lots to do but are enjoying it and getting chance to relax
regularly then you are protecting yourself against stress. One of the major reasons
we feel under pressure is because we know we have lots to do but no clear idea
how we are going to fit it all in. So we end up with a whole lot of jobs buzzing around
in our heads. Then even when we do get time to sit down things that we have to do
keep popping into our heads and we don’t relax properly.
Physical recovery
The advice and exercises in this booklet have been designed to give you a good
start on the road to recovery. You have probably found that you have not completed
all the exercise programme and you can continue to use this for the next few weeks,
doing a little bit more each week.
Keep a record so that you can look back and see how you have progressed.
General recovery
Doing a little bit more each week applies not only to exercise. Setting yourself
realistic targets to achieve over the next few weeks is the way to proceed from here.
If you normally enjoyed, for example, gardening or baking before your illness but
have not had the energy to do this since your illness, set getting back to this as one
of your targets. Start small and work up from there.
Pain from scars and injuries
By now any scars from surgery should not be causing very much pain. Occasionally
tender spots can develop due to the regrowth of nerves or the internal stitches
pulling a little. This usually disappears as the internal stitches dissolve.
If your admission to intensive care was due to an accident you may have had
broken bones that are still in the process of mending. As time progresses the pain
will gradually decrease and you will be able to do more. Remember that any limb
that has been in a plaster cast will need extra work to rebuild its strength. If you
have any concerns please speak to you GP.
You may not be on any medicines when you come out of hospital but if you are then
there are some simple rules to follow:Don’t mix them with other pills without checking with your doctor or the pharmacist.
Don’t take a lot of alcohol with them.
Keep a list of them with you.
Don’t stop taking them suddenly without discussing it with your doctor.
Don’t let anyone else take them, even if they seem to have a similar problem to you.
Never take more than the dose prescribed for you.
Side effects
Most drugs can have some side effects. If you think that you are suffering from side
effects go to see your GP and discuss it. They may be able to reduce the side
effects you suffer by prescribing a lower dose or changing you over to a different
Medicines can play an important part in your recovery and in avoiding further
Anxiety after being seriously ill is understandable and quite normal.
Anxiety can cause some
or all of these:
Anxiety has the following
mental effects:
 Difficulty
 Difficulty
 Problems in making
 Problems sleeping
 Lack of self confidence
 Feeling that you are going mad
or that your personality has
Anxiety can cause the
following behaviour:
 Not listening to what people are
 Flaring up at little things.
 Losing your sense of humour.
Dry mouth
Feeling faint.
A cold sweat
Rapid pulse
Rapid shallow
Bad temper
Feeling unsatisfied.
Strange pains.
Tingling in the feet and hands.
Cold clammy hands and feet
Tense, sore muscles
Butterflies or tightness in the
 feeling far away or distant from
going on.
This is how adrenaline gets us ready to fight or run when we are in danger.
Effects on the mind
Effects on the body
 It makes us concentrate on the danger
and ignore other less immediately
important things.
 It makes our thoughts race- so we can
look for other ways to escape.
 All animals have this” fight or flight”
mechanism to help them survive.
Another name for this is fear. If we did
not feel fear we would be a danger to
ourselves and to others.
 It produces a sweat - so that the muscles
will be cooled down when we are running
away or fighting.
 It increases your breathing rate - so that
there is more oxygen for your muscles, so
you can run faster or fight more effectively.
 It speeds up your heart rate - so that more
blood gets to your muscles, so you can
run. or fight more effectively.
There is nothing wrong with this as its part of nature’s way of helping you to cope
with danger. If we are in real danger we do run or fight and so we don’t notice the
effects it has on our body.
The problems start when we have a worrying thought but can’t run away. The
adrenaline gets our body ready in the same way as above, but as we aren’t running
or fighting, it doesn’t get used up and it causes unpleasant physical and mental
The racing heart, cold sweat, dizziness, makes us feel scared and ill.
Body prepares
for fight or
flight Adrenalin
Feel under
Why is this so common after serious illness?
You will have been told by the doctors looking after you and by your family that you
have been very ill, this is very frightening. This means that your adrenaline level will
already be raised. Then any worrying thought or thing that happens can be enough
to put your adrenaline level up. Relaxation lowers the adrenaline level.
It is also easy to get into a vicious circle. If you notice these bodily feelings it can
lead to worrying thoughts like:
“I’m not getting better, I’m getting worse.”
“I feel faint; I may be going to pass out.”
“There must be something wrong with me, I must be ill.”
These thoughts produce more adrenaline, so the bodily feelings get worse. If we
notice this we worry even more and so the feelings get worse. This won’t hurt you
but it’s very unpleasant, especially if you don’t know what is happening!
Panic attacks
Sometimes the cycle continues building up the level of adrenaline very quickly and it
rises to very high levels. This leads to what is called a “panic attack”. In a panic
attack most people feel that they are going to die. Although panic attacks are not
dangerous they can be, however, very frightening.
Remember that panic attacks are not dangerous. Remember that they usually only
last for 10-30 minutes. There are things you can do to gain control over them.
 Consciously slow down your breathing, deepen each breath.
 Think to yourself, “this is stopping, I’m safe”. “I’m going to be all right”.
Thoughts like this turn off the adrenaline.
If the panic attack happens in public, don’t worry what people around you will think
of you. If you need to, head for somewhere quiet and sit and relax.
Remember to deepen and slow your breathing. As you do this your heart rate will
slow down and your physical symptoms will start to pass.
If your panic attacks happen only under certain circumstances, for example when
you go shopping, or when you are alone in the house, don’t avoid doing these
things. Just make sure that you do a relaxation session before and if you feel a
panic attack coming on try and manage this with deep, slow breathing.
Low spirits after being ill
Low spirits are common after being very ill. These feelings usually go as time
passes. The feelings can range from the occasional feeling of sadness or
tearfulness to absolute despair.
Common symptoms:
Poor appetite.
Early waking.
 Loss of interest in things that was once
 No energy for doing things.
 Loss of interest in appearance.
If these feelings become very bad they are called depression. One of the most
unpleasant features of depression is what it does to the way a person thinks. A
depressed person can usually only see the bad side of things.
Negative automatic thoughts after serious illness
We all have automatic thoughts all the time. They are the sort of everyday thoughts
that go through our minds all the time without us paying much attention to them. For
example the phone rings and you think “I must answer the phone”. If someone
asked you what you were thinking about when the phone rang you might well say
“nothing”. The thought was so quick and so obvious that we don’t notice it has
After serious illness anything that is connected with the illness can set off negative
automatic thoughts like- “I’m no use anymore.”, “My life is as good as over.” or “I’ll
never be the same again.”
These kinds of thoughts make you feel sad. They would make anyone feel sad - if
they believed them. The trouble with automatic thoughts is that they go so fast that
we don’t get chance to think about whether they are true or not. We just
automatically believe them, resulting in a sudden feeling of sadness that we can’t
explain. Sometimes it may be the sight of something, or a memory, or even a smell
that can trigger off these thoughts. If you can work out what the thought was, it can
give you a chance to put it right because they are usually wrong and finding this out
can allow you to combat them.
Physiotherapy Rehabilitation Manual
As a result of critical illness your muscles become very weak and returning to
normal life can seem very far away. This leaflet has been developed to try and aid
your recovery after intensive care treatment.
There are three parts to the leaflet:
 Breathing exercises to help get your lungs working properly again.
 Exercises to increase your muscle strength and improve your fitness.
 Advice on returning to normal function and activities.
You can do the exercises throughout the recovery process. You may start them
while you are still a patient on intensive care. Once you are discharged home you
can begin to make the exercises harder so that your strength continues to improve.
Following the programme can be very tiring but in the long term it will aid your
Active Cycle of Breathing Techniques (ACBT)
After critical illness the muscles that help you breathe are weak. You may also have
a lot of phlegm that needs to be cleared. The following exercises will help to
strengthen your breathing muscles and make it easier to bring up phlegm.
There are 3 stages to the breathing exercises which you complete in a cycle (please
see the diagram below). The techniques are flexible and can be varied to suit you.
Relaxed breathing or breathing Control
This is normal gentle breathing. Use your tummy muscles gently to assist your
breathing and relax the upper chest and shoulder muscles. This technique is useful
to calm breathlessness and is used to relax between deep breathing and huffing.
Deep breathing
Take a slow deep breath, imagining that there is a band tied around your chest that
you are trying to push away. Hold the breath in for a couple of seconds if you can,
then breathe out gently. Only do 3 – 4 deep breaths at once.
This is a medium sized breath in, followed by a fast breath out through an open
mouth. Use your chest and stomach muscles to force the breath out. It’s similar to
steaming up your glasses to clean them. Huffing moves the phlegm along the
airways to a point where you can cough them up. It is much more effective and less
tiring than coughing.
After 2 – 3 huffs and when you feel the secretions are ready to be cleared you can
cough to clear the phlegm.
Exercise is important after being ill and helps you to recover from your time in
intensive care. While you were ill your body took some of what it needed to survive
from its stores in your muscles, meaning they may be smaller and weaker. It takes
time to get your strength back.
Some of the benefits of exercises are:
 Strengthen your heart and lungs
 Help to rebuild the muscle you lost during your illness
 Help to reduce stress
The exercises are divided into three sections:
Bed exercises
These are a good starting point and can be begun whilst you are still a patient on
intensive care.
Chair exercises
As soon as you start sitting out in a chair you can begin to do these exercises. They
can be done alongside the bed exercises as well as on their own.
Advanced exercises
These are designed to be a progression of the first two sets of exercises. Once you
are discharged home and can walk without any help then you can start this section.
Tips for exercise
Start with a low number of repetitions for each exercise (5 is often a good level). As
an exercise becomes easier, gradually increase the number you do. This will build
up your strength and fitness.
Try to do the exercises at least once a day. This can be increased to 2 – 3 times a
day if you feel able.
Stop exercising and rest if you experience any:
 Severe chest pain
 Increase in chest tightness
 Dizziness or feeling faint
 Severe breathlessness
Consult a doctor if these symptoms persist.
Bed exercises
These exercises are to be done lying down.
1. Ankle pumps
Point your toes downwards and then bring them back up
towards you. Repeat with the other foot.
2. Ankle circling
Rotate your ankles so that you are making a circle with
your foot. Repeat with the other foot.
3. Hip and knee flexion
Lift your knee towards your chest so that you are
bending at your hip and your knee. Repeat with
the other leg.
4. Knee extension
Push the back of your knee down into the bed
so that your thigh muscle tenses up and pull
your foot up towards you. Hold for 5 seconds,
and then relax. Repeat with the other leg.
5. Straight leg raise
Pull your foot up towards you and keep your
knee straight. Lift the leg about 20cm off the
bed. Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly lower
the leg back down. Repeat with the other leg.
Chair exercises
These exercises are to be done sitting down.
1. Knee marching
Lift your knees alternately towards the ceiling, as if you
are marching on the spot.
2. Knee extension
Straighten out one of your legs as much as you can and
pull your foot up towards you. Hold for 5 seconds and
then slowly lower the leg. Repeat with the other leg.
3. Toe tapping
Lift your toes up and down so that you are tapping the
floor with them. Repeat with the other leg.
4. Heel tapping
Lift your heels up and down so that you are tapping the
floor with them. Repeat with the other
Advanced exercises
1. Bridging
Lie on your back on either the bed or the floor. Bend
your knees and rest your feet flat. Tighten your
buttocks, squeeze your tummy muscles and lift your
bottom off the bed/floor. Slowly lower back down.
This exercise can be made harder by holding your
bottom off the floor for 5 – 10 seconds.
2. Heel raises
Stand with your hands on the back of a chair for support.
Lift your heels up off the floor then slowly lower back down.
3. Sit to stand
Sit on a chair with your arms crossed. Stand up and then sit
down again without using your arms to help.This exercise
can be made harder by slowing it down or by using a lower
4. Step ups
Stand by the bottom step of your stairs. Step up and down
the step. Use your hand rail for balance if you need to. You
can make this exercise more difficult by stepping up more
quickly so that you feel a little bit out of breath.
5. Wall slides
Stand with your back to the wall and your feet hip width apart
Slowly slide down the wall as far as you can then slowly slide
back up.
Getting back to day to day life
When you have been ill, it can take a while to get back to feeling your normal self. It
can be quite a shock how difficult it is to try to do your normal activities. You may get
tired very easily. Even simple things, like washing and dressing, can be exhausting
to start with.
Remember you have had a serious illness. You will be very weak and your body has
a lot of work to do to get back to being fit. It’s really important to be realistic in what
you expect yourself to be able to do.
Make sure you:
Pace yourself. Try to do a small activity and then plan to rest. This stops you
exhausting yourself by doing too much at once.
Set yourself realistic and simple goals. This will show you how much you’re
improving. A goal that is unachievable will leave you feeling discouraged.
Look back at what you could do initially and compare it to now. You’ll be
surprised how much more you can do!
Use the exercises in this leaflet to help improve your strength and fitness.
 Return to normal hobbies gradually. Remember that your body will be less fit
than before you were ill. Start with a small amount and slowly increase time
and difficulty.
Recovering from a critical illness can be a long, gradual process. Following the
exercises and advice in this leaflet will help. Keep up the hard work!
During your stay on Intensive Care you may have been fed via a tube through your
nose (nasogastric tube) and this may continue after you have left Intensive Care. If it
is deemed that is not yet safe for you to swallow food or fluid the nasogastric feed
will provide you with all the nutrition you need. You may find that the tube will remain
in place even when you have started to eat. Sometimes patients may be
encouraged to eat as normally as possible during the day and are fed via the
nasogastric tube at night. This is to help supplement your diet to ensure you are
receiving adequate nutrition. Once you are managing adequate oral intake the tube
will be removed.
You may find that you have lost your appetite since being ill, or you may find your
food does not taste the same.
Maintaining a nourishing diet is an essential contribution in aiding your recovery.
The body needs a well-balanced diet and sufficient calories to help with wound
healing and fight infections. However, your illness may leave you with a loss of
appetite. This is common during a prolonged hospital stay or major illness. The
following suggestions may help you improve your appetite and ensure sufficient
calorie input:
Eat small frequent meals, aiming to eat every 2-3 hours
Have nourishing snacks (i.e. cheese and crackers) or milky drinks in
between meals
Relax and take your time during meal times as chewing and swallowing may
be tiring if you are breathless
Take advantage of times when you may feel hungry.
Have favorite foods as often as you like and keep snacks handy to nibble onchunks of cheese, peanuts, raisons, carrot sticks or fruit
If you feel full quickly avoid liquids around meal times
Have quick convenience foods such as frozen meals and tinned foods if you
are too tired to cook
High protein, high energy drinks may be prescribed by the dietitian or doctor
to take in between meals to provide additional calories and protein. Other
nutritious drinks are available from your local chemist such as Build Up or
You may find that you are experiencing a change in taste. Common changes include
a metallic taste, foods having no taste at all or tasting sweeter or saltier than normal.
These changes again are usually temporary. If you find this is the case the following
tips may help:
 Concentrate on foods that you like and leave those that don’t appeal to you.
Try them again in a few weeks when your taste may have returned to normal
 If red meat tastes bitter try more fish, poultry, eggs or try soaking red meat in
fruit juice, wine, vinegar or sweet and sour sauce before cooking. This may
improve the flavour
 Cold meat may taste better with pickles or chutney
 Use herbs and spices to enhance the flavour of foods. i.e. mint, curry,
tarragon or pepper
 Sharp tasting food may taste refreshing and tends to leave a pleasant taste in
the mouth i.e. fresh fruit, fruit juices or boiled sweets
 Fizzy drinks and lemon tea can be used as an alternative to tea and coffee
 Brush your teeth after each meal and try gently brushing your tongue to leave
your mouth fresh tasting
Another temporary side effect is that you may experience episodes of nausea;
therefore the following suggestions may help:
If possible let somebody else do the cooking
If the smell of foods make you feel nauseous, try cold meats, sandwiches or
foods that only need heating up, avoid strong smelling foods
Avoid greasy, fatty or fried foods
Keep meals small and dry. Dry crackers, toast or plain biscuits can help
relieve nausea
Sipping chilled fizzy drinks through a straw may help- try lemonade, soda or
ginger ale
If you have been on intensive care for a long time, it is likely you will have lost
weight and muscle strength. It is estimated that patients who require intensive care
will lose 1% of their muscle mass per day.
It can take 10 to 14 days to build each days muscle back up. For example, it can
take 100 days to regain the muscle strength from a 10 day intensive care stay. This
is caused by the length of time you were immobile (were in bed).
If you have found that you have lost weight and wish to increase your calorie intake
to aid weight gain you can add additional calories and protein to your foods:
Have high calorie, high protein foods and avoid foods labelled ‘low-fat’ or
Sprinkle grated cheese into soups, sauces, mashed potatoes, vegetables or
have snacks such as beans on toast or omelette
Add butter to vegetables, potatoes, pasta and toast
Add creams to soups, sauces, mashed potato, breakfast cereal and porridge
Add cream, ice cream, evaporated milk, custard, full cream yoghurts to hot
and cold puddings such as fruit pie, sponge and tinned fruit
Add sugar, syrup, honey, jam or lemon curd to cereal, ice cream, milk
puddings, sponge puddings and yoghurts
Add mayonnaise or salad cream to meat, fish, egg or cheese sandwich
Add cooked cold meats, beans, lentil to soups and stews
Have protein rich foods such as meat, chicken, fish, egg, cheese, yoghurt,
nuts, beans, lentils or vegetarian products at least twice a day.
Add skimmed milk powder to 1 pint full cream milk- use in drinks, cereals,
sauces, soups and puddings
Have a pint of full cream milk (blue label) every day in cereals and drinks.
Have nourishing drinks made with milk- coffee, milk shakes, Ovaltine,
Horlicks, cocoa, hot chocolate
Again, high protein, high energy drinks may be prescribed by the dietitian or
doctor to have in between meals, if necessary, to provide additional calories
and protein. Other nutritious drinks are available from your local chemist such
as Build Up or Complan
Once your appetite and weight has returned to normal or you are not experiencing
any difficulties with eating and drinking aim to follow a healthy balanced diet. This
can be achieved by:
Choosing a variety of foods to provide you with a wide range of nutrients
Try to eat 3 regular meals per day
Include starchy carbohydrate (bread, rice, pasta, potato, or cereal) at each
Choose high fibre options where possible (whole meal bread, brown rice,
whole-wheat pasta, wholegrain breakfast cereal)
Aim for a combination of 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day. These can
include fresh, frozen, tinned or dried
Include 2 portions of protein daily e.g. lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs,
nuts and dairy products.
If you struggle to cook or prepare meals try ready meals, frozen or tinned
foods, meals on wheels, or see if family and friends could prepare batch
meals for your freezer
Stick to the recommended maximum units of alcohol, 2-3 units/ day for
women and 3-4 units/ day for men
Creation date: April 2015
Review date: April 2018
Produced by: Whiston Hospital Intensive Care Unit
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