Pivoting your aged care meal service into the 21st Century

Recently, Dr Bill Thomas, Founder of The Eden Alternative spoke at the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency Better Practice Conference. 

Bill had a very clear message:  we must ditch our current care methodology – WHAT YOU NEED.  This one way offering of competently providing the best services and support we think you need – services that are most easily monetised, measured and available for reimbursement.  People are less wanting to be reluctant consumers of conventional services. 

Lets do a sector pivot, Bill suggests, to WHAT WE WANT.  Lets create circumstances that help older people live in relationships with others and connectedness with community.  We are all ageing.   Lets enlarge our potential as humans to participate in living.  What do we really want and aspire to?  How can the “silver reservoir” of lived experiences and insights benefit the life of those younger? 

It is time to reimagine what we do, how we do it and the frameworks through which we work.  It is time to put away 20th Century models, practices, attitudes and language and embrace the 21st Century.

If we are to wilfully surrender our focus on competence and shine the spotlight on possibilities, what will that look like? What do we hold dearest in relationships and community? How do we bring this into the kitchen?

Bill suggests it is a difficult craft but we have an obligation.  Our current focus on regulations and safety will not allow us to create an experience of food that evokes memory and good feelings and enriches our social being. Regulations will not get us there.

Five ways you can start immediately

  1. Include a wider circle of support including family and community to bring about a quality outcome for residents and staff.
  2. Create your meal service, including dynamic menu, collaboratively with your wider circle of support.
  3. Have a variety of warming, nourishing, favourite foods (hot and cold) available all hours, easily accessible to residents and staff.
  4. Balance the Nutritional Quotient (NQ) over the day rather than just at the 3 main meals.  Not all residents can obtain adequate nutrition at each meal.
  5. Utilise abilities of residents, staff, family and community to create ideas, prepare, cook, serve, eat and tidy up. Develop a higher level of aspiration.

While elemental food safety is good, we must rise above minimal standards to develop pleasing experiences with food – daily.

Are you worried about audits and non-compliance? Build a strong cohesive vision and strategy that encompasses food and stand strong in your beliefs. Paint the picture to staff and bring them on the journey.  Champion their skills and talents.  Challenge regulatory pushback and back up your vision with sound procedures and processes.  Clarify what is enforceable.

Bring your talents, skills and goodwill together to create a clear pathway for your meal service and dining experience.  Meet your strategy and wow the community. 

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