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Dignity in dining: Useful advice for carers

Many people in the community and residents in aged care facilities need assistance when consuming meals. This can be one of the most important care tasks undertaken by staff in residential aged and community care, therefore carers need to ensure dignity in dining is maintained at all times.

When a person requires assistance to eat and drink, their nutritional health becomes dependent on others. It may be just a meal to you, but that meal is full of nutrients which are vital to maintaining that person’s well-being.

One of the most effective strategies is to ‘be engaged’ with the person you’re assisting, whether it’s an elderly loved one at home or an aged care resident. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Have a conversation with your client and tell them what is on the plate. When the meal is pureed, it’s even more important to explain what the person is eating as this texture modification changes the appearance of the food.
  • Cut the meal up in front of the person (once they have seen what it looks like) so they can see the full meal first.
  • Don’t mix foods together – this should never be done, especially if food services have gone to the effort to mould pureed food into food shapes.

Take a seat

It’s important not to stand over people when they’re eating; sit on a chair and be at eye level with the person so they feel more relaxed. Striking up a conversation with person you’re assisting helps to put them at ease and allows them to enjoy the experience more. The conversation may be one-sided so you could start by talking about things you know about them, such as their hobbies, or everyday events like the weather or sport. If the television is on, feel free to use that as a conversation starter. Bonding over mealtimes will turn what could be an experience they dread, to one they look forward to.

When feeding a person who may not open their mouth wide enough, use a smaller fork or spoon, or make sure you only scoop a small amount of food onto the utensil. You want to ensure the person you’re caring for isn’t put in an undignified position by having food dropped all over them with you then having to wipe it up. Co-ordinate the feeding and watch for the cues that the person in care is ready for the next mouthful and don’t rush the meal.

If a person is consistently not eating enough food or drinking enough fluids, this is cause for concern and should be reported to family, supervisors, and organisations. Elderly people especially are at a higher risk of dehydration, so as a carer it’s important to be aware of the risks and recognise the signs and symptoms.

It’s an honour

Helping someone to consume a meal is an honour and an important part of any meal service – even the smallest assistance of positioning a plate can make a huge difference to the meal for an individual.

One of the most rewarding aspects of ‘dignified’ dining, is enabling people to be independent, ensuring enough food and fluids are consumed, and that you’re sharing the mealtime experience with them.

When you feed or support a person in eating, be present with them at that time. This is an important time for social stimulation as we all need company from time to time.

Carers’ checklist

  1. Is the person sitting upright
  2. Are they in reach of the meal
  3. Are the utensils and cups appropriate
  4. Be mindful of how much is being consumed in each mouthful
  5. Encourage sips of drinks between mouthfuls to help with fluid intake
  6. Try to not talk to other people while feeding a resident or loved one
  7. Ask the person if they would like a clothes protector
  8. Make sure tables and trays are set

At e-f group we work with some of the biggest care groups across the UK and as such, develop close relationships with them ensuring we understand their purchasing and menu management needs so we can develop our systems to help with their catering operations and compliance.

Our expertise in the care sector has allowed us to develop our free leading-edge menu management system, CaterCloud, which accurately calculates nutritional and costing information, so get in touch today to see how we can help you!

If you work in the care sector and would like to know how our systems and expertise can help. Please contact Stephen Gallagher on 07834 175458 or email stephengallagher@e-foods.co.uk.

To sign up to CaterCloud for free, click here.

Published on February 1st, 2022

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