Posted on Thursday, 7ᵗʰ January 2021
The Lantern Project’s annual Aged Care conference for 2020, like so many other events, was held via Zoom. This was the only change, with the quality of presenters remaining at the high standard set at previous conferences.
While COVID-19 was an unavoidable topic, priority was given to food in Aged Care and what learnings have come out of a year that required innovative thinking and smart solutions to challenges previously not faced by the Aged Care industry.
The three key themes for food in Aged Care were:
- The rise of telehealth and holistic care frameworks
- Combating isolation, loneliness and increasing appetite
- Texture modification and IDDSI
Holistic care involving residents, clinicians and food service staff, including Chefs, is increasingly being adopted in Aged Care.
The necessary increase in telehealth as a way to diagnose, assess and consult with residents in Aged Care throughout 2020 proved to be more effective than face to face appointments in almost all cases (read our previous article on this topic here).
With Chefs able to be present during a consultation - along with family members as well as clinicians, everyone associated with supporting the resident was given the same information. Chefs have since been able to make precise and timely adjustments to meals and menus.
In addition, residents have felt more involved with the decisions made about the food they eat, and are able to see themselves at the centre of decision-making when it comes to texture levels and meals.
As a result, there has been a rise in co-designing menus and meals with residents.
With lockdowns of various degrees across Australia and New Zealand over 2020, Aged Care facilities were quick to adapt and innovate ways to keep residents from feeling isolated from family and friends - and each other - by creating and maintaining ‘social distancing events’ and embracing technology platforms such as FaceTime and Zoom so family and friends were able to see and speak to each other regularly. Read more here.
Both Colin McDonnel and Kylie Wales spoke about creating storytelling groups as part of morning and afternoon tea.
Stories and narrative were also popular in terms of helping residents connect with past food memories, creating and serving the same or similar meals and encouraging residents to share with each other the origin of the food and their memories around the event or experience.
Scientific studies have proven aroma and taste can be powerful prompts for memory so the combination of familiar smell and taste of a favourite meal can help residents recall events and memories from long ago.
Texture modification continues to be a priority for Aged Care Chefs, with many finding it additionally challenging this year.
While the increase in Telehealth and a more holistic approach to assessing residents’ dietary needs was an unexpected benefit, Chefs are still challenged to create nutritious meals that look great and taste appealing at different texture levels for each dish.
Many Aged Care food experts such as Loretta Reiken have been working hard to create resources for Chefs to help in this area.
Creating a single meal with multiple texture levels has shown to be an issue at pureed levels where chilling and setting the meal is required. This is out of step with menu-style meal ordering which is becoming increasingly common in Aged Care facilities as it satisfies one of the main drivers of the New Aged Care Standards - customer choice.
It is anticipated 2021 will see much development in how best to implement IDDSI and manage texture modified meals in Aged Care, with several projects underway already.
Despite the challenges of 2020, the people working within Aged Care remained positive that facilities have managed these challenges to the best of their ability and are constantly working hard to improve the health and lives of their residents.
Find out more about The Lantern Project here.