Fostering Care, Connection and Kindness in Dining Rooms For Residents in Aged Care Facilities
One of the first questions visitors will typically ask their loved ones at aged care facilities is how is the food?
We all know that food quality is a key determinant in a resident’s perception of an aged care facility. A positive dining experience has the potential to not only influence positive nutrition and health outcomes but also improve resident’s wellbeing and mental mindset.
A few weeks ago, I attended the Aged Care Catering Summit at the QLD Food and Hospitality Tradeshow. At this conference, a diverse group of experts shared their experiences working to improve nutritional outcomes for residents. A key theme reoccurring throughout the day was putting the ‘joy’ back into the dining experience. But what exactly does that look like?
Let us explore a little more into what a caring, connecting and kind dining experience looks like in aged care facilities.
What does a dining experience that encompasses care, connection and kindness look like?
Well it all starts with how we stimulate the five senses:
We eat with our eyes - sight is the first sense that triggers our brains, and consequently our digestive system to get ready for a meal. Food should be visually appealing on the plate and presented neatly. Staff show kindness by clearly communicating to residents what each element on their plate is prior to serving so they know exactly what they are eating. Residents are seated together in a dining room with a warm and comfortable atmosphere.
Pictured: Potato Rosti with diced avocado and a gooey poached egg.
Did you know between 75-90% of taste comes from our sense of smell? A meal can taste amazing but if the smell is unappealing, it can disrupt the whole dining experience. Meals should have a pleasant aroma to stimulate the brain and taste buds.
Pictured: Lamb and Rosemary Premium Filo served with mashed potato, gravy and roasted pumpkin.
Filled with flavour and familiarity, meals need to have taste appeal. Familiarity in flavour prompts connection in many ways; connection to past memories, loved ones or a favourite dish. Salt, pepper and other condiments are provided to residents to season food to their likings. Ensuring that all appropriate cutlery is available, for example, spoons when soup is served or serrated knives when steak is served.
Pictured: La Grande Quiche Lorraine with a roast pumpkin and fetta salad.
The temperature of a meal can make or break a mealtime for residents, so ensuring food is heated correctly and served at the right temperature is critical. Show care to residents by making sure hot meals are served warm and cold drinks are served cool, especially on hot days. Texture is important not only for those with dysphagia, but also those on a full textured diet so being mindful of how the food feels in the mouth can improve the meals dining experience.
Pictured: Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Soup served with rustic sourdough bread, sour cream and fresh herbs.