Posted on Thursday, 22ⁿᵈ April 2021
The challenges facing Aged Care are in the spotlight as the industry begins to respond to the recent Royal Commission into Aged Care.
On February 25th 2021, Unilever Food Solutions hosted an online panel discussion to identify the key challenges Aged Care Chefs are facing with texture modified food, and brainstorm possible practical solutions that can be developed by the industry to help Chefs overcome those.
With participants from several Aged Care organisations, the panel consisted of Chefs, Dietitians, Texture Modification experts, and Aged Care hospitality managers from Australia and New Zealand. The panel was moderated by co-chair of IDDSI, Julia Cichero.
The discussion highlighted the difficulty Aged Care kitchens have in accessing relevant information and the need for training in order to master the complexity of preparing and serving great quality texture modified food.
There is a strong desire to offer consistent meal quality to all residents regardless of texture modification requirements. The panel expressed the need to ensure all residents felt part of the meal time experience and weren’t disadvantaged by their specific needs.
Mince and moist and bite-sized were flagged as the most challenging texture levels to get right.
What would help:
Recipes which are specific to one or more texture levels, with instructions for texture modification methods would be highly beneficial.
Mid-meals and snacks were another area identified as needing specific texture modified recipes and inspiration.
Another area Chefs are looking for more support in is the use of thickeners for pureed texture levels. There currently isn’t an industry standard for thickeners and results are inconsistent.
Anecdotal evidence during the discussion suggested current commonly-used thickeners are often affected by temperature and humidity, rendering them unreliable. In some areas of Australia Chefs are having to adjust their methods daily according to the weather!
What would help:
It would be ideal to have clear guidelines for different types of thickeners, how they perform under different environmental conditions for IDDSI, particularly Level 4, pureed.
The other part of the texture modification puzzle identified during the discussion was more to do with how resident needs are communicated.
With so many experts involved in a resident’s care-plan, the industry as a whole, lacks the tools for a transparent, overall care-plan, which tracks any updates and decisions as they are made.
The increased use of Telehealth during the COVID crisis was a blessing for many Aged Care organisations as multiple support providers, including family members, could attend the same appointment and adjust their care schedules, including menu plans, with all the information they needed. This also alleviated the issue of friends and family members not understanding what decisions were being made about their loved ones, and why. Ensuring everyone has a comprehensive understanding of the resident’s condition and care requirements was important to everyone on the panel and there was hope it would continue even post COVID.
The sharing of information was also raised in terms of casual staff who commonly have neither the time nor the training to understand an individual resident’s specific needs. This was flagged as a significant issue as clinicians and chefs recognised the risks involved in residents not receiving the correct texture levels at meal times, and not having appropriate meal time support. They cited inattentive support staff, rushed meal times and a lack of interaction between care staff and residents. Of course, insufficient staff to resident ratios are also understood to be a contributing factor.
What would help:
Increased education for specific areas of food in Aged Care, specifically in texture modification was a common thread throughout all aspect of the panel discussion and was extended to educating support staff, both full time and casual as well as cross-education of kitchen staff, clinical staff and specialists.
While some of these challenges are easier to solve than others, Unilever Food Solutions will continue to work with Aged Care Chefs to find ways to support and inspire them to deliver the best meal experiences to their residents they possibly can.