What are employees’ holistic needs? We can break these down into three health categories: physical, social and mental. Physically, people need healthy food, sufficient sleep and exercise.
Providing quality nutritional value in aged care facilities is not always given as much focus as it should be. Statistics show that, internationally, rates of undernutrition in the long-term care sector range from 30 – 65%. In Australia, admissions into aged care have reached more than 200,000 annually, and with an ageing population thanks to improved healthcare resulting in longer life expectancies, these figures can be expected to continue to rise.
With such high admission rates, and considering the fact that the average cost of food ingredients per resident per day in Australia is $6.08, aged care facilities may be tempted to forgo nutritional standards in order to cut costs. However, this would result in various negative consequences and could even end up costing the facility more money in the long run.
High-quality nutritional care contributes greatly to the health and well-being of aged care home residents, mentally as well as physically. Eating regular, nutritious meals helps elderly residents to maintain their strength and energy levels, allowing them to participate in more social activities that the home provides. This can have a knock-on effect on happiness levels of residents.
The dining experience also contributes to the well-being of residents. If they enjoy the experience of sitting down and eating a meal with fellow residents, then their mood will be greatly improved. With 46% of aged care residents being diagnosed with depression, this is something that care homes should be paying special attention to.
If the quality of catering in an aged care facility is unsatisfactory, this could result in an increased number of bed vacancies. With residents paying an average daily fee of $50.16, this could result in losses of approximately $18,000 per year for a facility.
As well as the direct cost of vacant beds at a facility, there could also be an indirect effect on profits affected by the home’s reputation. The resident and their family members are likely to complain about the care facility, leading to reputational damage that could put other people off choosing that particular facility.
With all this in mind, it’s clear to see the importance of providing quality nutrition to residents in aged care facilities. So, let’s look at a few key ways you can improve your facility’s nutritional outcomes.
Focus on fresh food
Some companies may shy away from using fresh produce and ingredients to prepare their meals with as it can be more costly and time-consuming. Here at Cater Care, we think that fresh food should be a priority for all aged care facilities.
Providing residents with fresh food on a daily basis ensures they have meals with high nutritional value. It also makes the meals tastier and more enjoyable, making it more likely that they will eat enough food.
Feedback from residents
It’s likely that your residents and their family members have opinions about the care you provide them with, including your catering services. Whether these are positive or negative views, it is important that you listen to them and take them on board. It is better for someone to air their negative experiences to you, allowing you to act on them and improve your service, than to post them on an online review community for all to see.
Talk to your residents about their experiences at mealtimes and even provide them with formal questionnaires to gain more in-depth feedback. These questionnaires can be made anonymous if residents don’t feel comfortable providing constructive criticism.
Tailor meals to residents
No two aged care residents will be exactly the same, so it makes sense that their needs and preferences will differ as well. So, providing all your residents with the same meals at the same times will inevitably lead to some of them being dissatisfied. Drop the one size fits all approach and give your residents some flexibility when it comes to what they eat and when they eat it.
Good food isn’t all about taste; the way that meals look and how they feel when you eat them also play a big part in how enjoyable they are. It’s important to serve food that looks and feels appetising so that residents want to eat it and enjoy doing so.
This becomes more of a challenge when catering for residents who experience difficulty eating solid foods. Texture modified foods can look unappealing, so it is important to pay extra attention to these. Producing them fresh is a much better option than buying pre-made texture modified meals.
Make mealtimes enjoyable
It’s not just the food that needs to be enjoyable, but also the experience of eating it. Try to make residents feel comfortable and relaxed during mealtimes by providing them with a comfortable environment in which to eat. If they feel like they are being rushed, then mealtimes may be stressful for them, resulting in them eating less food than they need.
Some residents will like to be social during mealtimes while others might not feel comfortable eating around others, so give these people privacy if they need it.
Putting extra time, and money if required, into improving the nutritional value and experience of your aged care home’s mealtimes is a worthwhile investment. For more information on this topic, download our free ebook about how food and nutrition is transforming aged care in 2018.