Client Access

Improving the Mealtime Experience

Oct 24, 2022

The importance of the dining experience 
Food is central to how, why, and when we connect with others. The dining experience is made up of more than just the food itself; several factors influence the experience from sights and smells to the environment, sounds and company at the table. The right to adequate food is vital for the physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being of older Australians.  

Often designed with efficiency as the top priority, cooking and dining environments within our aged care homes often lack the perspective of the resident, ultimately ignoring the community aspect that dining together can bring. 

Relationship-centred care can capitalise on mealtimes to harvest connections with residents. This can include taking the time to learn their dietary requirements, getting to know them and understanding any food-related concerns they might have can make them feel more comfortable.  

Currently, only few aged care residents finish all of their main meals, which can lead to unintentional weight loss. A more enjoyable atmosphere can lead to an increased intake. 

Improve your dining experience 
When working with aged care residents, it is important to focus on the experience rather than just the service of bringing out a plate of food to the table. The experience focuses on how the dining room feels – it is recommended to greet residents by name, describe the meal to them and ask if they require any assistance. The dining experience will ultimately lead to a positive and comfortable time of day when residents can look forward to mealtimes.  

Offering choice 
Choice cannot be overstated. Small changes can enhance the dining experience for older Australians allowing them to make their own decisions about their food beyond the meal they would like to eat. Placing condiments on each table allows residents to choose how they would like to season their food to the way they like it.  

Person-centred dining 
What worked yesterday might not work today, and that’s okay. Checking in with how residents are feeling can help staff adjust the level of help to suit the needs of each person. Taking small steps to help prepare the residents for mealtime or to stimulate an appetite can be used. When walking with them to the dining room, you can: 

  • Talk about the meal 
  • Discuss what will be served  
  • Make note of what foods they like 

Avoid the smell of cleaning products and air freshener; the room should smell inviting. The scent of home-cooked meals helps to build excitement around mealtime and can improve appetite. 

Plan the space 
Dining rooms should be welcoming, offering an enjoyable experience. Keeping any medication or physical therapy away from the space should be followed. A general rule should be if it wouldn’t happen in a restaurant it shouldn’t happen in the dining room. 

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