Changing resident structures and needs in catering to the elderly: a daily challenge

We are living longer and longer and staying fit well into old age. Although this should be a cause for celebration, it has an impact on our old-age provision. In the past, once they could no longer manage for themselves alone or be adequately cared for at home, pensioners would move into an old people’s home. Today, this step is delayed for as long as possible. As a result, old people’s homes are confronted with changing resident structures:

  • New residents arrive at the homes older and less fit as a result.
  • Dementia is becoming increasingly common as people age.
  • Many new arrivals in old people’s homes are severely malnourished.
  • In general, it is difficult to find enough skilled workers.

Gabriele Kösterke, specialist planner and partner at KÖSTERKE INGENIEUR CONSULTING GbR, is familiar with these changing structures through her decades of professional experience. But she also knows that these are not the only challenges when it comes to distributing meals: “Fewer residents are eating their food in the dining room. Many are no longer able to get to the dining room, or they prefer to eat in their own rooms, out of embarrassment, for example. Nursing staff try their best to motivate these residents to join in and eat their meals in the common areas. Added to this, many of the more mobile residents prefer to cook for themselves in the shared kitchen.”

One thing is clear: distributing meals is an increasingly varied and complex task. As Frau Kösterke states: “Ensuring adequate care is quite a challenge for everyone involved!”

Practical tips for catering to senior citizens

Malnourishment

Tip 1: It helps to know the residents’ eating habits and to cater to them – if necessary in a modified form and using a plant-based diet. If residents are offered food that they have always liked, the chances of them eating enough are that much greater.

Tip 2: Meals can be complemented with natural foods, helping to counteract the common problem of malnutrition. Smoothies, for example, can be served as a tasty drink between meals and are an excellent source of vitamins.

Safety in handling

Tip 3: Functionally adapted tableware in easily recognisable colours helps vision-impaired residents feel more secure during mealtimes. That way, they won’t stay in their rooms out of embarrassment.

Well thought-out concepts for meal distribution

Tip 4: There is a demand for concepts that require fewer staff members while allowing for a variety of distribution methods. On the one hand, this means that kitchens should be reduced to the essential, easily operated equipment, but at the same time, shared kitchens need more refrigeration and more reheating and dishwashing equipment.

Tip 5: Reducing the variety of food means fewer staff are needed when portioning it out. However, this must take into account residents with food intolerances or special diets.

Tip 6: Equipment that uses sophisticated technology and meets the requirements. Instead of a conventional household appliance, use an industrial dishwasher that can guarantee important features such as thermal disinfection.

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