While searching for nursing home placement, quality care is definitely the most important factor involved. Quality care contributes to a good quality of life. But what else contributes to a good quality of life? That would be none other than food! Nursing homes often have a bad rap for their food, often being compared or called “hospital food”. If there’s one thing for sure, food services in long term care have come a long way. In 1985, the U.S. Congress declared that the first week of October would be a national time to recognize the integral role that foodservice staff have in helping employees and patients of healthcare facilities stay well-nourished and healthy. The Association for Healthcare Foodservice (AHF) celebrates National Healthcare Foodservice Workers Week this week, October 3-9.
At Mitchell-Hollingsworth, we believe in creating meals that are not only of nutritional value, flavorful, and attractive in appearance, but also based on the likes and needs of each resident. Food preferences, food restrictions, and food allergies are all taken into account. Our registered dietitian is on site to assure that each menu is nutritionally balanced. We understand that older individuals are faced with many different disease processes and often have a failure to thrive because of poor nutrition. In addition to our well-balanced meals, our elders are given the support they need to enjoy their food. We give them the time, help, and encouragement they need to eat and enjoy each and every bite. Residents are never rushed to finish a meal and they are provided the choice of where they want to dine.
Nutrition is a basic human need, but what we do is so much more. We believe good nutritional care is ensuring that meals are appetizing and pleasing to each individual. As part of our individualized care planning, we are constantly assessing, changing, and improving food intake when necessary to assist in quality of care. Dietary preferences are recorded and carried out by kitchen staff. We take into account speech and language needs including people with swallowing difficulties that need special thicknesses and textures, those with dietary restrictions due to disease processes such as restricting salt or water intake or following a diabetic or renal diet, and those that need equipment such as special plates and cutlery. When residents need an in between meal snack, food and snacks are made available. We ensure mealtimes are respected and not interrupted by other routine activities and that the environment is conducive to eating whether that be in the dining areas or in their personal rooms. We have trained our staff to ensure that they have a nutritional knowledge base appropriate to their role. The staff understands each resident has different needs, capabilities, and different levels of assistance at mealtimes. They have been trained to communicate with elders that have dementia and communication difficulties. We provide nutritional information and support to our residents about the food if requested.
This week provides an excellent opportunity to recognize and thank those individuals who provide food and nutrition services to our residents, staff, and family. If you are visiting with family or friends at Mitchell-Hollingsworth this week, please take the time to recognize all the hard working individuals who make healthcare foodservice possible, from the dishwasher to the administrative leader.