“Dining Experience” in Aged Care
“Dining Experience” is one of the most talked about topic today in Aged Care. Each and every aged care is working passionately to achieve a great dining experience for the residents. It is very well known in aged care industry that meals are the one of the major part of residents’ life. All residents look forward to each meal service and have certain expectations.
I strongly believe that creating a great dining experience is not just about providing fancy meals and using expensive cutlery and crockery. It actually will help residents to have great appetite, better nutritional and hydration care, add a great deal of joy and enjoyment to their lives and of course as an organisation, being satisfied with high standards of services we provide.
Ø How do we provide the best possible dining experience for our residents and meet their expectations
Ø What are the basic fundamentals we need to consider in order to achieve great dining experience
Ø How do we overcome the challenge of changing catering procedures and work culture in aged care kitchen
Ø How do we work with currently available resources and workout reasonable budget
Ø What tools and systems do we need to create a great dining experience
Ø How do we involves other areas such as lifestyle, nursing, cleaning, laundry, dietitians, families & relatives
This is my take / tips on how to achieve this goal and make our residents life more joyful and more enjoyable
Ø Basic Fundamentals – As a management, we need to realise that this is a big change in the aged care catering that has been set in certain ways for quite a long time. In order to bring any change in any industry / department, it is imperative to make concerned staff members realise THE NEED and THE BENEFITS of the change. For a long time, collecting resident’s meal choice / drink preferences in advance has been a common practice in aged care and it has worked reasonably OK as far as kitchen operations are concerned. Hence first challenge we need to address is to have all staff on one page. Organising meeting with key catering staffs, getting to understand their concerns and also allowing them to implement their ideas about dining experience is a big first step towards achieving the goal. Half the battle is won just by having key staff members realise why this change is so important and what are we trying to achieve as an organisation.
Ø Resource & Budget Allocations – Any new idea needs solid resource and reasonable budget allocation in order to be successful. Creating Dining Experience requires a considerable change in work hours, meal times, waiting staff, serving practices, ordering procedures, choice of menu suitable for Al a Carte service, hiring serving equipment & computer systems that can help perform al a carte service. This does not essentially mean spending more money or increasing hours. However, manipulating the same resources with few changes and using them in a different way is important. There are few computer systems that are available in market that can assist with running the meal services restaurant style and still provide essential dietary info required for aged care set up.
Ø Change in work schedules and system implementation – Catering work schedules and duties need a great deal of attention before trying to implement dining experience in aged care. A common issue in aged care is to maintain restaurant service standard without changing current work schedules. It is not viable to just change the way we ask resident about their meal preference at the table, rather than current way of collecting data a day prior or even a week in advance. The moment we change the way we collect data about meal choices, it will impact on serving meals, cooking, ordering, prepping for meals and so on. One more aspect that needs to be considered is the amount of paperwork in aged care catering. Management should consider implementing systems that can help reduce paperwork and also reduce manual changes in diet information. We must acknowledge that chefs are hired to run kitchen efficiently, maintain high standards of Food Safety, and provide delicious, nutritional meals to residents. Anything that can help kitchen staff to spend minimal time on paperwork and focus more on catering procedures is worth an investment.
Ø Other departments / staff – Catering department in aged care, is dependent on other areas to an extent and vice versa. Changes in meal times and services will certainly Impact on lifestyle (e.g. Activity times), nursing (e.g. getting residents ready for meal services and feeding), cleaning (e.g. cleaning dining room) and laundry (e.g. washing table clothes if used). While implementing changes in catering, we must consider how it will impact on other areas and try and address the concerns in the planning phase.
Ø Involving Residents & Families – As we know that any sudden change in routine might disturb some residents in aged care. Hence, informing residents and their family members about possible changes and also keeping them updated on creating better dining experience for their loved ones is essential.
Overall, I believe that creating a great dining experience is crucial for our residents and at the same time, well thought and detailed execution plan on paper is also mandatory.