If It's Good Enough For My Grandma..
Updated: Aug 23, 2019
Hi and welcome, I’m so excited to be here with you!
When I graduated as a dietitian, the areas that I decided (then) that I would never work in were aged care and menu reviews. But you’re reading my blog now on just that right?! So what changed?
In a word - me. When I was asked to look at a menu for an aged care facility because there were too many sausage rolls and party pies on it, with the questions of “we can do better than this can’t we?”, it was like a switch flicked.
When I got to the facility and saw the actual people (yep, someone’s grandparents or parents) that were eating the food in the dining rooms, it felt like it became my responsibility to be a voice for them. To teach the kitchen staff that they can give them better food without breaking their budget. That they can give the residents food that doesn’t come out of a box from the freezer.
Without really giving it much thought, this became my standard. Would I be happy enough for my own grandma to sit in this dining room and eat this food? If it’s a no, then it means I need to see where I can help to bridge this gap between the current food quality and what I would give my own family. Sounds easy right? Easy yes, but simple no.
Many years have passed since my first entry into an aged care facility dining room, but have they really changed in that time? Are our elders getting the food they enjoy, look forward to, that keeps them healthy and mobile, that they truly deserve?
From public opinion the answer to that is no. We definitely have more awareness of the situation now, particularly with the current Royal Commission into Aged Care and the recent changes to the Quality Standard.. But is the food quality overall in a better place? In one word - no. The photos sent to the ABC last year for their documentary on the issue was proof of this.
There are pockets of facilities that are doing an amazing job - to them, I salute you. They have figured out the golden elixir that it doesn’t actually take much time, effort or money to make a significant difference to food quality. It can be as little as an extra $2 per resident per day. What it does take is courage, leadership, research, thought, but most of all - a willingness to change. What we have always done will not be accepted, even more so when the baby boomers start arriving in our care.
So what do we do? Awareness is the first step. Are you aware of what your residents think of the food that they are given at your facility? Are the residents given the opportunity to provide feedback, good, bad or indifferent? Are you creating a space for them to contribute to the changes in food quality, such as menu or food meetings with residents and the chef or cook. Are you collecting traditional recipes from residents own cultures, that truly helps us ‘see’ them?
Let’s celebrate food quality and nutrition in aged care - it is our duty but more importantly, it is our privilege to give our elderly people food that they want to tell their friends and family about, and that they can’t wait to get to the dining room to enjoy.