When it comes to foodservice in senior living settings, menu choice and overall variety are essential for maintaining quality care. Evidence from numerous different studies even suggest lack of freedom during mealtimes can be “detrimental and undermine resident autonomy and nutritional status.” Some experts in the field attribute this to generational differences. For instance, seniors today are more likely to desire on-demand restaurant-style meal service than traditional cafeteria-style service that was so popular decades ago. So, what do your senior living patients today want, and how can you streamline your menu development to ensure they get it?
Offer Autonomy in Food Choice
Entering a senior living facility can be hard for patients. As soon as one does, freedom is often replaced by strict schedules and systems that are meant to accommodate facility efficiency over patient autonomy and ultimate satisfaction. The biggest problem is, these “imposed restrictions” on things like menu choices, dining times, and meal settings significantly discourage meal consumption and proper nutrition absorption. Thankfully, “increased levels of foodservice satisfaction of up to 30%” can be achieved simply by giving your patients more choice over what they’re able to eat. By personalizing menus for each patient by preference and nutritional need, for instance, every patient can enjoy thoroughly balanced meals they’re actually excited to eat without compromising their recommended diet, greatly benefiting both your patients and foodservice staff!
Allow Appropriate Meal/Choice Timing
If your facility follows a mealtime schedule and preps in advance, forgoing the need to ask patients what and when they want to eat daily, your patient populations’ general satisfaction is likely to fade fast. Aside from the fact that cravings and appetites change day by day for everyone, many seniors are often unable to even remember what they ordered, let alone muster hunger when it simply isn’t there. That’s why, if you want to guarantee meal consumption and subsequent patient health and satisfaction, you need to enable on-demand meal services that allow patients to choose their meals from menus comprised of their favorite options, at times that are most conducive to their unique preferences and treatment schedules. Only then will your senior living facility be able to optimally balance patient care and administrative efficiency.
If you had to eat at the same restaurant every day, for every meal, eventually you would get sick of the menu – and your patients feel the same way. Of course, change doesn’t have to be difficult, or even costly. By simply rotating your menus you can always offer your patients something fresh and new, while at the same time optimizing your food purchasing. Have your nutrition leaders figure out what produce is in season and tailor your menus to utilize the most affordable ingredients. Then, use scraps and leftovers to come up with new recipes to further eliminate food waste while simultaneously keeping patients on their toes!
Elevate Modified Meals
Modified meals, especially those related to food texture, are natural in senior living facilities. However, whether or not yours are appealing to, and appropriately enticing, your residents is a different story. Fortunately, nutrition leaders around the country have been developing creative new techniques for elevating the appeal and interest of puréed and modified meals. Pastry techniques, for instance, can be used to mold puréed foods back into their original shapes to create a feeling of normalcy for patients who are dining with others consuming similar, whole ingredients. Other experts recommend adapting a more elegant approach to puréed foods, using various fine dining techniques to add color, style, and intrigue to puréed foods to generate curiosity and attention that inspires anticipation. All your kitchen needs is a little creativity and care.
Not sure how/where to begin? Try Vision Software. From menu checking and ordering software, to room service and tray tracking applications, our HIPAA compliant, HL7 compatible foodservice technologies guarantee your nutrition leaders have the resources and time to provide the safest and most personalized patient care possible throughout your senior living facilities. Call 629.777.8989, or fill in the free consultation form in the sidebar, to learn more about how Vision Software can positively impact the lives of the patients and visitors you service every day.