Education drive seeks to enhance the dining experience for residents
As the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging’s Agri-food for Healthy Aging (A-HA) team was preparing to release the results of a major study into the factors that influence healthy nutritional intake among long-term care residents, Coleman Care Centre was already looking at improving the dining experience for its residents.
Erlinda Talim, Coleman’s director of food services, has long understood that simple considerations can be made to enhance mealtimes for residents. In doing so, their nutritional intake and overall health has a much greater chance for improvement. The Making the Most of Mealtimes (M3) study, led by the RIA’s Heather Keller, involved more than 600 residents from 32 long-term care homes in four Canadian provinces, proved that Erlinda’s inherent understanding of resident dining needs was entirely accurate.
Among those involved in the study, researchers learned that food and fluid intake were low, on average, and the team was able to identify 10 key nutrients that were below recommended levels as a result. Residents who ate fewer calories and protein were more likely to be female, of older age, on pureed diets and presented a number of challenges during mealtimes, such as not being able to hold utensils. Perhaps not surprisingly, those with higher caloric and protein intake were the residents who required and received more person-centred support at mealtimes, such as those residents living with dementia, and those who lived in homes where a registered dietitian spent more time.
Before even seeing the results of the M3 study and the ensuing recommendations that are now being promoted, Erlinda and the team at Coleman decided to address dining with simple team education on the concept of “pleasurable dining.”
“It was a multidisciplinary approach from all departments and we were able to capture our new hires as well,” Erlinda says. “It served as a quick snapshot of what the pleasurable dining experience is all about during mealtimes.”
The idea is that mealtimes should promote “pleasure”, the education campaign suggests, not “pressure”, and each word is broken down in posters throughout the village:
P Promote a homelike atmosphere;
L Link with residents: include in conversations and activities;
E Encourage social interaction;
A Alleviate anxiety, attend to social and emotional needs;
S Slow down;
U Understand the reality of the resident, use empathy;
R Respect residents, treat like adults, honour and preferences;
E Encourage residents to use their skills/abilities;
P Pretend residents do not exist, personal conversation talk over, ignore;
R Rush the meal serving/feeding;
E Excessive stimulations, noise, glare;
S Suppress the person’s value, treat as children/an object;
S Stop residents using their abilities/skills;
U Use labels to blame, unable to empathize needs;
R Refusing to meet evident needs;
E Estrange relationships, distance people away;
“It reminds us, so we’re mindful, of the things that sometimes happen in long-term care that you get used to but really shouldn’t be there,” says Mhel McMullen, a recreation team member who regularly supports residents at mealtimes.
Respect is one of the key words to remember, in Mhel’s mind, for when team members respect the individual needs of each resident, they better understand how to enhance the mealtime experience. Sometimes that simply means slowing down to ensure people have enough time to relax and take pleasure in each bite.
Since early May when the education was first introduced, Mhel has noticed greater awareness among the team and residents, but she cautions that “all changes are not in one big jump, it’s first steps in making everyone aware and responsible for their part on providing a really nice meal.”
Each small step, however, impacts overall change and that’s what pleasurable dining at Coleman Care Centre is all about.
To learn more about the MS study, please visit the RIA page here.