From Quality of Care to Quality of Life: steps towards a person-centred approach to food and nutrition

Traditionally, aged care providers have focused on providing quality of care to their residents. The introduction of the Single Quality Framework Draft Aged Care Quality Standards highlights the need to move to a more consumer-directed approach. This means handing back control over everyday decisions to our residents.

How can we continue to modify our current practise to more strongly embrace our residents’ dignity and choices relating to what, where and when they would like to eat?

Dietary preferences – more than a piece of paper

It is common for residents to be asked about their dietary requirements and food preferences on admission. This is also a great opportunity to find out what is most important to the resident when it comes to eating and drinking. This is more than just a preference for wholemeal bread or dislike of peas. It may be about the presentation of meals, timing of meals or even the perfect cup of tea. This level of understanding can lead to many small but meaningful improvements in food service delivery.

Does your dietary preference form need updating to better reflect all aspects of resident choice relating to food, drinks and the dining environment?

Refocusing food focus meetings

Despite being well-intentioned, food focus meetings sometimes descend into a barrage of complaints, negativity and disharmony between participants. Sound familiar? With a few tweaks, these meetings can take on a more positive focus.

The timeline is important. Residents want to see their feedback is taken seriously and implemented in a timely manner. Therefore, plan to host these meetings shortly before the next menu cycle is due.

Draw out constructive suggestions for improvement with structured discussion points:
• Feedback on the current menu. Which meals were enjoyed? Which were unpopular?
• Suggestions for inclusions in the upcoming menu
• Gather ideas to celebrate upcoming theme days (for example Mother’s day or Christmas)
• Invite residents to submit their own recipes for dishes in the upcoming menu

Do you need to review the timing and agenda for your food focus meetings to create a more positive food culture?

The menu as a constant evolution of resident choice

Working with a multi-site menu? Leaving space for ‘resident choice’ meals in the menu design enables menus to be responsive to resident requests and special occasions such as milestone birthdays. Have your dietitian formally review your menu annually or seasonally but allow residents to tweak and evolve the menu during cycles.

Your dietitian can assist with meal substitution guidelines that afford resident choice whilst maintaining nutritional adequacy.

Even small steps towards a person-centred approach can lead to significant improvements in quality of life for your residents. For more information on transitioning to a person-centred approach in aged care, please contact Leading Nutrition on 1300 712 722.