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On 16-18th of October 2017, IHHC held their 36th National Conference in Adelaide, South Australia for healthcare support service professionals, including foodservice. 

With a line-up of international speakers and industry experts, the conference covered some of the biggest trends and advances in Aged Care foodservice and different models of care, the latest research and innovation in improving the lives of the elderly. 

Unilever Food Solutions staff attends the IHHC conference every year with the aim of deepening our understanding of Aged Care sector and the developments that are shaping the future of Aged Care industry to help us develop solutions that inspire and solve the needs of Aged Care Chefs. 

As part of our RE:FRESH program for Chefs in Aged Care, Unilever Food Solutions aims to connect Aged Care Chefs with industry experts and latest knowhow, and as such, we decided to bring the highlights of the IHHC conference to you in a series of articles.

The top 2 topics on the agenda of IHHC were

1: The rise of food allergies and how to take those into consideration for menu planning and kitchen processes

A survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2014 states that over 4 million Australians suffer from food allergies and intolerances. With a little over a quarter of these being children between two and 18 years of age, it leaves 3.5 million people, a large portion of whom will be needing Aged Care in the foreseeable future.

Many of the Chefs we have spoken to say that while food allergies are becoming more common with their residents, it has not had a major impact on their menu planning and kitchen processes - yet. 

A delicious prawn dish

The IHHC conference speakers with expertise in food allergies in Aged Care acknowledged that there is a need for a cohesive national response to the rise of food allergy and intolerance conditions in both Aged Care and the Health sector in general. While gluten and coeliac disease are still the common food allergies, there are increasingly many more complex issues arising, and the Aged Care sector will need to be prepared to respond to these challenges.

Maria Said, the CEO of Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia has been involved with developing Australia’s National Allergy Strategy which will form the basis from which industries such as Aged Care can adjust their internal procedures and processes to ensure residents are receiving meals which support any food related condition they may have.

For Aged Care Chefs, the opportunity lies in getting ahead of the research and beginning to develop an internal response to the challenges of creating meals for residents with a range of allergies and intolerances. While not specific to the Aged Care sector, the NAS document is the beginning of a National Strategy that will inform HealthCare in the future.

2: The success of household style living models for the elderly and those with dementia

One of the biggest changes to Aged Care in recent years has been to the way the elderly are cared for and the design of day to day living.

Everything from the layout of the facility, to the way staff and residents interact with each other has undergone significant changes.

The biggest impact these changes have brought is the elevation of dignity and autonomy individuals have, regardless of age, condition or needs. 

The two front-runners in these innovations are the Household Living model for the elderly, and the Butterfly Model of Care for residents living with dementia.

Both models focus on creating living spaces that allow the residents to create their own routines and daily patterns based on skills, interests and tasks that they enjoy and are able to do.

Aged Care resident dissatisfied with meal

One of the most significant responses from residents has been the increased interest not only in the planning, and preparation of meals but the way the meals are served and eaten. More care is taken with table settings and food presentation. As a result more food is being eaten which as a positive effect on health.

Initial empirical research shows that in a household living situation, residents are more alert, healthier and require less care.

In these cases, the role of Chef changes slightly as the open kitchen invites residents to be more involved in food preparation. However, the need for Aged Care Chefs to continue to provide planning, nutritional and dietary expertise will remain as relevant as ever.

For Aged Care Chefs, how food is sourced, planned, cooked and served remains key to keeping residents healthy; the future will bring both new challenges as well as innovation and developments that will continue to improve the lives of the elderly and those who care for them.

Watch this space for more coverage of IHHC topics and interviews with presenters.