Dignity of Choice in Diet: New Quality Standards – Will this affect your menu?

The new Aged care quality standards are to be implemented and assessed against from the 1st July, 2019, and Standard One is all about ensuring your consumers are able to exercise choice.  It’s a good time to question how you will manage choice especially in regard to meal choice. The agency focus will be to ask your residents questions and then depending on their responses, require your home to provide supporting evidence.

Choice – The consumer’s right to make informed choices, to understand their options, and to be as independent as they want, all affect quality of life. The organisation needs to provide genuine options that support choice (1)…

The agency will be determining if your residents report happiness with their meals, snacks and drinks, and they are provided with the meals and drinks as to their preferences.  Residents will always be happier with their meal service if they feel their choices have been catered for.  However, choice will always need to be applied with a ‘what’s reasonable’ clause.  For example if your resident has a dislike for peas, then it is reasonable to expect that peas are not plated and a suitable vegetable alternative is, ideally another green vegetable is offered.

It is not expected that your menus are a la cart, but… It is time to assess how you offer your residents choice at meals.

Some things to check at your facility are:

Current best practice recommends two hot options

Current best practice recommends two hot options at the main meal of the day and the lighter meal, usually the evening meal offers at least one hot option, or a salad and/or a sandwich.   This enables your residents to make a genuine choice at meals.  If a resident reported that ‘they do not like chicken and chicken is always on the menu’ you will be able to demonstrate that each time chicken is on the menu another non chicken meal is available.

Your resident likes and dislikes are clearly documented

Your resident likes and dislikes are clearly documented and this information is actively used at the time of meal plating.  To ensure that in the first example, peas are not plated to the person who dislikes peas.

Mid meal trolley’s have options for drinks and foods

Mid meal trolley’s have options for drinks and foods, and your residents are able to select a drink and mid meal option to their liking.

Unfortunately no menu is able to cater for all residents likes and dislikes, so actively involving your residents in meal planning will assist in offering options that your current cohort enjoy and will be happy with.  Also, involve your residents in deciding tea trolley mid meal options and what ‘short options’ could be available to satisfy residents when the menu option is not suitable.  It is helpful to decide on some easy to prepare, popular items that could be offered as an alternative.

It will be important for all home staff to understand meal options available to enable your residents to make choices.  Your staff’s positive communication of options will also help to create positive meal times and ensure your residents feel like they have genuine choice.

Further support with menu and menu development can be accessed from your aged care specialist dietitian.

(1) Guidance and resources for providers to support the new Aged Care Quality Standards