Editorial: Treating residents like restaurant customers enhances quality meal services

Pictured above, a pulled beef sandwich topped with crispy onions and an asparagus frittata from Frost Manor's kitchen.

Pictured above, a pulled beef sandwich topped with crispy onions and an asparagus frittata from Frost Manor’s kitchen.

Food is an important part of life in long-term care homes. Aside from the obvious nutritional benefits, food also fosters enjoyment and social activity. Perhaps most importantly, food provides choice, something residents hold dear.

Think of dining in a high-end restaurant. When dining out, we expect to be served meals made from high-quality ingredients. We want the food to look good, too. That’s what OMNI Health Care’s 18 long-term care homes strive to accomplish at mealtimes.

Cooking fresh food from scratch with fresh ingredients, plating meals in a way one would expect from a top-notch restaurant and ensuring food is served at optimal temperature are some of the ways OMNI kitchens keep meal quality high.

Serving food that looks and tastes good is important, given the high value residents place on meals.

In keeping with this idea, kitchens in OMNI homes are encouraged to use their creativity to produce plates that have colourful garnishes, and many meals are plated the way food is served in five-star restaurants.

For example, a typical meat-and-potatoes dish might see sautéed beef “plated high” on a bed of mashed potato.

If food looks good, people eat.

“People eat with their eyes first,” says Frost Manor nutritional care manager Neil MacDonald. “If we can make the food look good, smell good and especially taste good, with the encouragement of good service, the meal intake is going to be that much better. And we’re seeing that people are satisfied. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

While serving food that looks and tastes good is an important part of the dining experience for long-term care residents, there are other ways to enhance quality. A recent trend in the long-term care sector is seeing homes working towards creating a more social aspect at mealtimes.

Using this model, some long-term care homes are now seeing success by giving their dining rooms a more homey appearance. Something as simple as adding curtains or hanging more paintings on walls can have a positive impact on dining experiences, says Heather Keller, research chair in nutrition and aging at the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging.

Keller also suggests homes try to group residents with similar needs together during meals and include, if possible, residents who can be supportive of other residents at the table.

Many homes using this approach report seeing an increase in quality of life for residents, Keller says.

“I think people experience an increased sense of belonging, which is, perhaps, one of the most important things a meal can do,” she says.

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