With good nutrition so high on the agenda for care homes, Zoe Green, business development director at Dine Contract Catering, looks at why more and more operators are choosing to outsource their catering provision.
It’s a sad fact that more than 1 million people over the age of 65 are either malnourished or at risk of malnutrition. And by the time they reach the stage of entering a care home, up to 41% of new residents are malnourished.
While homes will undoubtedly be aware of the important role that a good nutritional intake plays in the health and wellbeing of all their residents, the CQC is placing more focus than ever on this area of care, creating even more pressure for homes to get this right. In fact, the regulator’s recently updated Regulation 14, which covers the provision of food and drink in care homes, has given inspectors the power to immediately prosecute if a failure to meet the regulations results in avoidable harm – or significant risk of harm – to a resident.
Dine Contract Catering launched into the care sector a year ago. Owners and managers have turned to us because, while they are fully aware of the likes and dislikes of their residents, they’ve found it a struggle to create menus that take all individual preferences into consideration, while also ensuring that meals deliver the nutritional intake needed to support good health.
At a practical level, when you consider the average care home kitchen, plus the number of staff typically available to prepare and serve meals and snacks throughout the day, it’s no wonder so many have turned to experts for help. After all, they are the experts in delivering the best care to their residents, so why not consider the option of turning to specialists to provide good food and hospitality?
When considering who to work with, most homes will prefer to choose caterers with an in-house nutritionist or dietician who can ensure that the nutritional content of all meals served is balanced around factors such as calorific intake, as well as catering for diets ranging from low fat to high calorie and meals for diabetics.
However, no matter how hard they work on the nutritional content of their menus, another challenge for homes is to gain an accurate picture of what residents actually take on board each day.
While demonstrating the nutritional intake of their residents is a requirement for CQC inspectors, homes are naturally keen to monitor this as closely as possible regardless of the legal requirement to do so. That way, they know that any signs of malnutrition can be addressed swiftly. But trying to keep track of who has eaten what throughout the day is easier said than done.
One of our own innovations for the care sector that has proved popular so far is the Nutritional Pathway system, which helps carers to assess whether each resident’s nutritional needs are being met by logging what they have had to eat, and how much of it they’ve eaten. It provides an accurate breakdown of what an individual may need to maintain their health and wellbeing.
Regardless of which catering option homes choose, the ability to keep such a close eye on nutritional intake is often among the top reasons for turning to outside help with their catering.
Part of the appeal of using an outside caterer is the knowledge and experience that specialists can apply when creating the right setting at mealtimes.
Needlesss to say, it’s always important to aim for a homely atmosphere – especially when catering to those with dementia, as a calm, comforting setting can reduce anxiety, which in turn will encourage them to eat.
Similarly, the presentation of food can play a big part in encouraging residents to eat and creating a setting that reminds residents of the quality they would expect in a restaurant can also make a big difference.
I am sure other specialist caterers who work with care homes will agree – the majority approach us because they want to ensure the standard of their food and drink provision is as high as the standards set by all other aspects of life in their homes.