What is in this article?:
- Mealtimes and Memory Connect in New Senior Dining Initiative
- Preserving dignity
This month, Cura Hospitality is rolling out Connections, a way to improve mealtime and quality of life for senior living residents.
More Finger Foods Allow for More Independence, Better Nutrition
As another part of the initiative, Cura chefs have been tasked with converting favorite entrees and snack items and turn them into finger foods with dips. A chef challenge is underway to encourage chefs to be creative in the initiative.
The results include more finger food with dipping sauces, like chicken skewers, fruit wedges, and the use of more components like tortilla wraps, puff pastry or even wonton wrappers, Crandall says.
“We also learned that it’s common for residents to get up and walk away during mealtimes,” he adds. “It’s hard for them to focus on a single task, and that’s a risk nutritionally, so foods that are portable will help them get the calories and fluids they need.”
Because finger foods allow residents to feed themselves despite advancing dementia, it's a technique that preserves a sense of dignity, another goal of the initiative.
When the Time Comes for Purees
Santoro calls more appealing purees “a crucial piece” of the Connections initiative.
“For some residents, as the disease takes its effect, puree diets become necessary,” she says. “We’ve achieved ways to deliver pureed food so it resembles the actual items. People become distracted, so the more it looks like food, the more likely they are to eat it.”
This illusion is achieved with molds and piping techniques. A fresh melon cup consists of melons pureed separately, then basically reassembled with thickener added, looking a lot like the original.
The aromas from food can stimulate appetites and make for an overall cozier environment, another piece of the initiative.
In many accounts, a country kitchen setup is possible, allowing good cooking aromas to waft throughout the facility, Santoro says.
But if a facility is not set up for country kitchens, there are tools specifically intended to create an aroma, as simple as a crock pot with herbs in it, Crandall says.
The task force found that flexibility is a key characteristic for any initiative helping residents with dementia.
“In memory work, you must be flexible,” Santoro says. “If you’ve seen one patient with Alzheimer’s, you’ve really only seen one patient with Alzheimer’s. There’s no one right or wrong way of doing things. You have to be able to customize.”