THE IMPORTANCE OF FOOD IN THE CARE HOME
According to carehome.co.uk, up to 40% of new care home residents suffer from malnutrition.
That’s quite a frightening statistic with which to start this article but it is in this kind of information that our ethos about good cuisine is rooted. The responsibility of the care home is paramount to ensuring that residents receive adequate nutrition, especially when a new guest has not been taking care of themselves in this way.
The reasons for an elderly person becoming malnourished are not necessarily due to lack of finance either. There are many reasons which could contribute ranging from:
EMOTIONAL ISSUES – depression, loneliness etc. leading to a lack of interest in self-care
BEHAVIOURAL – unable to navigate online shopping when immobile, pride or stubbornness to accept help
PHYSICAL – arthritis, digestive issues, failing eyesight etc
GEOGRAPHICAL – inability to get to the shops, lack of support network
As standard, anyone who has experienced ‘moving home’ will understand how stressful it can be. Add that to the stresses of being old or infirm, unable to make rational decisions for the self or even the fact that the elderly person does not want to leave their own home but have no choice and we see that it is certainly helpful for a care home to understand as much as they can about their residents and try to accommodate any nutritional requirements as best as they can.
If a care home can minimise the stress of a new resident not being in control of their daily meals, then it is likely to help that resident to experience a calmer transition from independent living to living in a care home. This is the start of building up trust from the resident as they will begin to feel more confident that their nutritional requirements are met.
That said, it is also worth noting that any care home has a duty of care to all of their residents and whilst it is important to provide meals that might be familiar to their residents, they also need to be mindful that someone entering the world of care may have been surviving on a diet that is limited in choice or nutrition because ‘that is how they like it’. In these cases, care homes do need to introduce a more balanced diet to their new guest in order to give them optimum nutrition. This is parallel to trying to provide food which is ‘normal’ for the new guest too to make them feel at ease in their new surroundings.
Every aspect of how a new resident is introduced to a care home is, therefore, important in providing a smooth transition into residential care. The introduction to the dining room is just one part of this process but again, the subject of cuisine is likely to be better received if all other aspects of introduction are also going well.
SOME WAYS IN WHICH A CARE HOME CAN HELP A NEW RESIDENT WITH FOOD
Will the staff accompany a new resident to the dining area on their first day or week?
Are the requirements of the individual considered? i.e., portion sizes, specific dislikes,
Are meals at set times or are options more flexible? A care home will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner but are their snack options in between meals?
Most care homes will offer homemade food that is freshly cooked. This will adhere to a weekly menu and residents will understand the choices that are available for their meals before they sit down to eat. As well as meals, care homes may also offer biscuits, cakes, fruit or other snacks in between meal times for their residents and always with the goal to giving residents the understanding that when they would like something to eat or drink, it is available.
QUESTIONS TO ASK ABOUT CARE HOME FOOD
If you are soon to reside in a care home or have an elderly relative who will be living in care, you should ask as many questions about the cuisine as you would like. Some example questions are:
Does the care home cook their meals daily using fresh ingredients?
Does the care home make their own biscuits, cakes, bread etc?
What is the Food Hygiene Rating for the care home?
Can residents make any requests of the kitchen?
How does the care home cater for certain cultures or diets?
How many choices are available at each meal or snack sitting? Will a back-up be available?
It is likely to take a while for someone to accommodate to the style of food that is prepared in a care home. Ask to see the menu so that you can get an idea of what is on offer. The menu should be easy to read in that the food descriptions should be in plain English and jargon free. If you have trouble identifying what a meal consists of, then the language on the menu is not right.
BREAKFAST – THE MOST IMPORTANT MEAL OF THE DAY
Everyone loves a good breakfast but not everyone is a ‘morning person’. Care homes often provide breakfast to residents on a tray in their own room. This allows them time to wake up and feel ready for the day in the comfort and privacy of their own room and at a pace to which they choose.
If a resident has the choice of a hearty breakfast of their choice, they are much more likely to have a nice day than if they are forced to eat something which they are not used to eating.
There should be a choice of breakfast options for the guests to choose from. This should range from cereals to fruit to more substantial, hot breakfasts. If there is something that you usually like for breakfast that is not on the menu, ask if it can be provided. Care homes can often accommodate if they are given enough notice. Everyone has their own preferences and dietary requirements – it is called a care home for a reason!
HAVING LUNCH IN A CARE HOME
Lunch will usually be the main meal of the day in care homes. Residents should be able to enjoy a freshly cooked meal with plenty of fresh vegetables or healthy options. Vegetarians, vegans and those with cultural or other dietary requirements should be catered for. A care home should always be able to provide residents with a constant and abundant supply of fresh fruit to the extent that they typically spend more on fruit than on meat on a weekly basis.
Residents will have access to a dining area to eat their food but not everyone wants to do that. Some residents may be physically unable to do this (although a nursing home may be required in some cases). In this case, allowances can be made for residents to dine in their own rooms as necessary.
TEA & SUPPER
Tea is the last meal of the day and will come after an afternoon snack. Tea will often be a lighter meal that will be easier to digest before bedtime. All of the normal choices and options will be present as per breakfast or lunch time but with a more appropriate menu. Tea could consist of sandwiches, cheese on toast or a jacket potato with filling followed by cake, biscuits, yoghurt or fruit. Supper will be an optional offering in the evening for anyone who feels that they could eat or drink a little more before bed.
In general, the daily schedule is not going to be dissimilar from what would be provided in a normal family home. This is how it should be because the fact that someone lives in a residential home does not mean that their lives should differ from independent living any more than it has to.
THE DINING EXPERIENCE
Lunchtime is the main meal of the day. In this respect, residents will tend to eat in the dining room to take advantage of the social aspect of eating. The dining room will be an open area of the care home as residents can stay for coffee and to chat long after their meal is finished. Alternatively, they may wish to retire to their room or adjourn to the garden to relax. The key point here is that the dining experience should be enjoyed as each resident wishes. This may mean that a resident wishes to eat alone and converse with no one. This is not necessarily a sign of any issue. It could simply be that the resident wants a bit of peace and quiet or that they feel self-conscious eating in front of others (especially of they have extra requirements like special cutlery that might make them feel embarrassed).
CARE HOME CUISINE – CONCLUSION
Just like when we live independently, the experience of food and drink in a care home should be enjoyable and leave a resident feeling satisfied and happy. If you are considering going into residential care, make sure you check out the facilities, the menu and ask all questions that you want to feel comfortable that you will have your dietary requirements met.
A good care home will offer a varied and ever-changing menu that is filled with fresh, healthy, homemade food options that take advantage of fruit, vegetables, local produce and quality ingredients.
If you are considering residential care in Market Harborough, then get in touch with the staff here at Brookside Residential Care Home to speak with us about our cuisine as well as other aspects of care living. Brookside are proud of use local butchers and farm shops to ensure that all of our cuisine is seasonal, local and supportive of our community. We are always happy to speak with new residents and answer your questions.