Care Home Dining: The importance of a refined dining experience

Food is a key part of anyone’s day. It’s more than just sustenance, food is often the focal point of big conversations and celebrations. And that is no different in a care home. Food plays a huge part of care home life but, as you know, some residents can struggle at mealtimes. This can severely affect their enjoyment of this important daily social event as well as special occasions.

Residents who come to dread breakfast, lunch and dinner because they have trouble feeding themselves can suffer from increased loneliness and irritability as a result of missing out on the vital social interaction that comes with a nice meal. Sometimes, that can even be worsened by the loss of independence and perceived vulnerability by having to be fed by a member of the care team.

However, Acticare is proud to be able to support your staff and residents as they raise standards and turn mealtimes into a fun, dignified experience.

Let’s explore five best-practice solutions to help your residents maintain their independence and make mealtimes simpler, safer and better.

Care Home Mealtime Best Practices

If residents at your care home find it hard to enjoy their food they may require a different approach. It’s key to try and emphasise the resident’s sense of independence and dignity through mealtimes, whilst also ensuring that they are eating enough to keep them safe and healthy.

Here’s a list of best practices that we’ve picked up in our years in the care industry which have helped residents to turn mealtimes into a highlight of their day, rather than something that causes them stress or anxiety.

Best practice 1 – know what, how and when residents like to eat and drink

  • Find out what residents like to eat and drink but remember their tastes might change over time, so ask them regularly.
  • Understand what portion size your residents prefer and when they like to eat their main meal, or if they prefer frequent smaller meals throughout their wakened day. We know many care teams offer the main meal in the evening since this is what residents are more accustomed to, but it might not necessarily be the individual’s preference.
  • Discover your residents’ favourite food and drink choices and how they can be adapted to meet their current needs. For example, made sweeter or more savoury; the texture adjusted so they can eat safely; what would make the food look more appetising if the texture has to be modified (for example, moulds, scoops, cutters).
  • Involve family and named carers to ensure you fully understand residents’ eating and drinking needs and habits.
  • Use the information you gather to get them the support they need.

Best practice 2 – communicate food and fluid needs

  • Liaise with catering/kitchen staff to make sure any special dietary requirements are catered for.
  • If they can’t tell you what they want to eat and drink, be creative. For example, ‘show and tell’ what is on the menus and hold taster sessions, recording responses (facial expressions, gestures) to foods and fluids. This can often be a fun interactive session which helps better engage your residents.
  • Make sure the plan of care reflects the residents’ likes and dislikes and what texture food and fluids should be, using the national descriptors.
  • Involve the right people at the right time to get residents the help they need, for example, a speech and language therapist (SALT), a dietitian or an occupational therapist.
  • Understand what food or drink your residents need to help them maintain health and wellbeing and advise the kitchen team. For example, foods to reduce the risk of constipation, dehydration and skin breakdown.

Best practice 3 – know what help residents need to be able to eat and drink independently

  • What adaptations do residents need to help them to eat and drink independently? For example, adapted cutlery, crockery, and seating support.
  • Give residents time to eat but make sure hot food stays at the right temperature to keep it appetising. For example, use heated plates or consider smaller portions with the option of further helpings.
  • Give residents time to chew and swallow and give them your full attention when you are helping them.
  • Make sure salt and pepper, other condiments and small jugs of water or other fluids are within reach, so residents help themselves.
  • If residents are eating and drinking on the move, make sure you know how much they are consuming to help you make decisions about them. For example, what help do they need if they are losing weight or not eating enough?

Acticare UK washable food bibs for care home dining

Best practice 4 – create an environment that promotes the ‘dining experience’

  • Find out what makes the best dining experience for each resident and what they don’t like, including who they enjoy sitting beside and who they would rather not sit beside.
  • Be aware of the noise levels and any distractions, and adjust them as appropriate to help your residents focus on eating and drinking.
  • Make sure that all residents have been offered and/or used the toilet before sitting down to eat and that they have washed their hands.
  • Aim to set the table for them the way they would like it, no matter where they decide to take their meal.
  • If you are helping the residents to eat and drink, sit beside them and take your time. If the resident is unable to talk to you, observe facial expressions and gestures to know when they are ready for more or have had enough.

Best practice 5 – know what you need to do to make sure each resident eats well.

  • Know what their MUST score is (Malnutrition Universal Screening Tool) and what it is telling you – take appropriate actions. For example, fortifying food to add calories.
  • Eating something is better than nothing and they may not prefer the ideal healthy diet. Respect their preferences but continue to offer residents healthy choices.
  • If residents prefer not to sit for meals, consider offering finger foods that they can carry around with them while they eat, or give them a named container they can snack from.
  • Make sure food and fluids are available all day so they can eat and drink when they want to. For example, access to fluid stations, and snack boxes.
  • When preparing residents for their meals, if required make sure they have the correct glasses on and hearing aids in, as this will help them enjoy and take part in the dining experience.

Refined Dining for All

Offering your residents a comfortable, safe and refined dining experience is a vital part of providing a high-quality service. Acticare is here to help raise standards in your care home. As a reliable supplier of catering equipment and with our industry-leading delivery promise and customer service you’re in safe hands. Find everything you need in our store today.