Meal Service in Home Care

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Published: 27 June 2021

Attentive meal service combined with healthy and flavoursome food can be a high point in the day of home care clients.

Meal service for home care clients is a topic worthy of consideration, as studies show that malnutrition affects about 15% of home care recipients in Australia (TAS DoH 2020).

It would be unwise to underestimate the effect that food presentation and service have on appetite and an individual’s eagerness to participate in mealtime.

This article will provide tips for providing high-quality meal service to home care clients.

meal service home care healthy flavoursome food
Healthy and flavoursome food can be a high-point in the day of home care clients.

Before Service

Before the meal is served, it is important to ensure everything is correctly set up and accessible for the client. Tables should have appropriate tablecloths or mats, cloth napkins and/or clothing protectors (Bartl & Bunney 2015).

Atmosphere

Ensure that the dining environment is welcoming, open, well-lit and pleasantly decorated.

Considerations should include:

  • Maintaining a comfortable, draught-free room temperature
  • Background music, depending on the client’s preferences
  • Preventing distractions such as loud music and televisions.

(Bartl 2015)

Using tablecloths, cloth napkins and small flower arrangements may make the dining environment feel more pleasant. Consider allowing the client to help set the table if they wish to do so (Bartl 2015).

It is important that tables and chairs are arranged in a way that permits the client to move around freely, including if they are using a wheelchair or another mobility aid (Bartl 2015).

The client should be relaxed and never rushed. This is particularly important in the case of those who may eat slowly but wish to remain independent. It is important to notice when an independent client becomes tired, or needs assistance or support to finish their meal (Cater Care 2018; Bartl 2015).

meal service home care atmosphere
Ensure that the dining environment is welcoming, open, well-lit and pleasantly decorated.

Attention to Detail

It’s crucial to serve food in a way that looks appealing and satisfying, and to arrange food with the same level of detail that you would serve your own meals.

It only takes a few small thoughtful additions to drastically improve the appearance of a meal. For example, adding herbs such as a sprig of parsley or basil will add colour to a dish. Offering condiment options is relatively easy to incorporate into meal service and may offer the client a sense of agency (Unilever Food Solutions 2019).

Presenting food in an appealing way can prove challenging when catering for clients who experience difficulty eating solid foods and require pureed or modified foods. Texture modified foods can look unsightly, so it is important to pay extra attention to these meals and to come up with creative ways of presenting them.

While pureed food is a solution to choking hazards and caters to people with chewing and swallowing difficulties, it may be so unrecognisable from its original source that the client might refuse to eat it. A solution to this is to reshape the pureed food with a food mould, for example, a carrot-shaped mould for orange puree (Egan 2019).

There’s no need to go overboard, but consider serving meals on colourful crockery and utensils. This will:

  • Instantly liven up the meal
  • Assist clients who are living with visual/cognitive impairments.

(Unilever Food Solutions 2019)

(Note: monochromatic cutlery and crockery are known to be confusing for people living with dementia.)

Cultural Considerations

Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to food service.

Take the time to find out what your client prefers. Beyond catering to their dietary restrictions or preferences, familiarise yourself with their cultural needs in regards to food preparation, for example, if the client requires their meal to be kosher or halal certified.

Sharing food and coming together during mealtime bears great importance in certain cultures. Visiting family and friends should be encouraged to bring and share food, but they will need to be briefed on food safety guidelines (Cater Care 2018; Bartl 2015).

meal service home care cultural considerations
Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to food service.

After Service

There’s a good chance the client will have feedback for the way meals are served and how mealtime is carried out. It’s important to take this on board and make sure that this feedback is relayed to any others who may be involved in meal planning and preparation.

Take into consideration clients who may be reluctant to share their feedback openly and consider anonymous surveys or questionnaires (Cater Care 2018).

Malnutrition

Malnutrition presents a major risk factor for sarcopenia and related issues such as an increased risk of falls, arthritis, depression, fractures, pressure injuries, poor quality of life and hospitalisation (Rossi 2017; ProPortion Foods 2018).

Access to adequate food and nutrition in a form that is enjoyable is a fundamental right that should be observed for all clients (ProPortion Foods 2018).

It is well understood that meal appearance, smell, flavour and a relaxed eating environment all contribute towards appetite stimulation. Consider, for example, the difference careful food presentation could make for a resident in the process of adjusting to a diet of only pureed food.

Conclusion

Meal service is a crucial component of high-quality care. Your manner of service could greatly influence a client’s enjoyment of mealtime and directly result in them receiving the nutrition they require to be healthy and happy.

Additional Resources


References

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