The benefits of providing good nutrition in aged care are obvious. Ensuring nutritional needs are met in aged care is an important but complex task. Eating can also be the highlight of our residents’ days so in addition to the health benefits, meals also need to appeal to eyes and taste buds!
It is an ongoing challenge facing aged care facilities to continually provide food that residents will eat and enjoy. For the majority of residents the facility is responsible for all daily nutritional care. A balanced and varied diet helps avoid malnutrition related illness and development of wounds and infection . Good food one of the top 3 things needed in aged care but with so many varied diets, needs and eating habits and capabilities, menu planning is a bigger process than some may think!
Satisfying nutrition requirements
Meals need to satisfy a range of nutritional requirements including;
1. Enough sources of protein like meat, fish and eggs
2. Good sources of iron
3. Enough vegetables, fruits and salads
4. Bread, cereals and grains, fruit, milk and dairy, fibre.
Ensure adequate opportunity for hydration
Adequate opportunities for hydration need to be offered with meals and throughout the day.
Closely monitoring food intake is imperative
An important aspect of nutritional care is flagging a resident whose daily food intake is on the decline. This needs to be monitored over several meals and carefully managed.
Communal meal times are important for mental health
Meal times provide an important social connection opportunity where residents can sit with others, chat and listen to the banter around them. It is important to encourage residents to eat outside of their rooms in order to encourage this social interaction, if only once a day.
The Infinite Care menu planning process
At Infinite Care, as in most aged care facilities, menu planning is a multifaceted process and requires a fine balance of both nutrition and personal preferences. The process of menu planning in our homes starts 6 weeks before any seasonal menu is introduced. Residents are surveyed and asked to list main meals, soups, desserts and light evening meals they are hoping to see on the next menu. Once the suggested menus are complete they are thoroughly reviewed by our Dietitian to make any amendments or suggestions to ensure that there is maximum nutritional value. This review looks specifically for variety and repetition, the inclusion of core food groups/protein/fibre content and the provision for special diets and supplements. We survey our residents one month after the menu is implemented to gain feedback into what they are liking and if there is anything there are not.
We are very fortunate in Australia to have ready access to a wide range of foods to include in our facility menus. Infinite’s current summer menu is in place until the end of March and includes everything you would have on your meal wish list (or that of your loved one) including roast chicken with gravy, lasagne, fresh fruits and sandwiches, choc chip bread and butter pudding and peach crumble with custard.