Whether you’ve already received your RCFE administrator certification, currently help care for individuals in a Residential Care Facility for the Elderly (RCFE), or are about to start an assisted living business, supplying RCFE residents with tasty, nutritious meals should top your priority list.
Without the foundation of appropriate nutrition, the important people under your care can’t fully enjoy the activities, special events, and social opportunities you provide to enrich their lives. Good nutrition enhances the joys of daily living.
This article explores the importance of proper nutrition for seniors and points out some of the roadblocks to healthy eating caused by the aging process. One focus will be to offer some suggestions on how to implement nutritious meals that will entice appetites for residents. The article will also briefly discuss California’s nutritional requirements for senior residential facilities under Title 22 regulations.
Focus on the Importance of Good Nutrition for RCFE Residents in California
Can nutritious meals and snacks help maintain cognitive acuity among residents? According to the National Institute on Aging, eating healthy foods can indeed affect brain health. While many other factors, such as exercise, stress reduction, and social interactions, also play a part, research suggests a nutritious diet helps maintain a healthy brain as you age.
Some other benefits of good nutrition that can promote healthful aging and maintaining quality of life:
- More energy and confidence to participate in activities and try new things
- Increased immunity to illness and faster recovery if sickness does strike
- Improved control over chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease
- Enhanced mental abilities and focus
All RCFE staff members need to comprehend the importance of meeting the nutritional needs of the seniors under their care. On-the-job-training, as well as RCFE administrator certification classes, provide helpful nutritional strategies and materials to share with members of the care team.
Understand How Aging Impacts Appetites and Good Nutrition
As people age, changes in physical and mental abilities can rob seniors of enjoyment of food and decrease their desire to eat on a daily basis. Since each person is different, and events such as illness or trauma can affect impairments, not all seniors experience the same issues.
Some common roadblocks to eating a nutritious diet may include:
- Loss of taste, smell, or sight that makes food uninviting
- Dental problems that interfere with chewing and eating
- Medications that affect the taste of food, desire to eat, and the absorption of nutrients
- Lack of mobility and exercise that stimulates hunger
- Illnesses that affect appetite
Unraveling the underlying causes behind a resident’s waning interest in food or eating is vital in addressing the issue. Devising a strategy to make the food more inviting becomes easier when you understand the problem the individual is experiencing. When residents are new to the facility, it is important to do everything possible to help seniors adjust to an RCFE.
Finally, make sure to follow recommendations from each resident’s physician for providing supplements such as vitamins and minerals. Consulting the doctor becomes important if an individual refuses to eat certain types of nutritious foods needed in the diet.
Keep Title 22 Nutritional Regulations in Mind
The California Department of Social Services, Community Care Licensing Division is responsible for regulations pertaining to RCFE’s. This includes Assisted Living Manager Certification. Specific rules in the California Code of Regulations Title 22, as well as the Health and Safety Codes, govern RCFE operations, including food service. Some rules vary slightly with the number of residents the facility accommodates.
Some examples of food service regulations include requirements to serve residents three meals a day, with some exceptions on weekends and holidays, and to make snacks available between meals. The code also requires the facility to designate a specific dining area to encourage socialization among residents during mealtime. In addition, RCFE staff must follow the orders of each resident’s physician in preparing meals and snacks.
Create Positive Dining Adventures for Residents
When seeking to improve the dining experience, it’s essential to rely on an engaged assisted living manager. Although the administrator may delegate meal planning and preparation to other staff, input from the manager is vital. The ability to listen and empathize with both employees and residents is especially important so everyone involved can brainstorm ideas to improve the nutrition and taste of daily meals. This is what makes a good assisted living manager invaluable.
The possibilities for making mealtimes fun are endless and can involve everyone. Changing the venue, such as an outdoor picnic in good weather, or developing a unique theme for the day or week can add interest to mealtime.
To avoid overwhelming the staff, encourage residents to get involved with details such as recipe research, decorations, or special music during mealtimes.
Realize the Importance of Tantalizing Menus and Tasty Food
Before you say “yes’ to accepting a new resident, interview the person and ask about food preferences. Do they have a special diet and can you accommodate it? Can you provide a gluten free or dairy free diet? Does the potential resident only eat pancakes? You want to know the food habits of this person so you do not disappoint them once they move in.
Building anticipation for upcoming meals among your residents can help whet their appetites. Posting daily menus with vivid descriptions can arouse interest and help residents look forward to mealtimes. Make the food sound delicious and interesting but don’t over-promise, or residents may feel disappointed.
Remember that each well-prepared and delicious meal encourages your residents to look forward to the next meal. Thoughtful seasonings, well-prepared entrees and sides, and attractive garnishes and presentations all add to the dining experience.
Recognize Individual Tastes and Preferences
In pursuit of providing excellence within an RCFE, it’s vital to pay attention to the individual needs of each resident. Acknowledge that while some residents find solace in the familiarity of their favorite foods, others yearn for the excitement and novelty of new flavors and taste experiences. Additionally, working around the loss of physical senses, such as taste or sight, and the negative effects of medications experienced by some residents also pose challenges.
Attempting to cater to diverse preferences requires a thoughtful and adaptable approach. Engaging in open dialogue with residents allows caregivers to gain invaluable insight into individual preferences and any sensory limitations residents may have.
Such conversations allow for tailored meal planning and preparation that strikes a harmonious balance between familiarity and culinary exploration, taking into account each resident’s individuality. Such an approach ensures that dining experiences within the RCFE are pleasurable, nourishing and fulfilling for every individual under the facility’s care.
Help Your Residents Deal With Dietary Restrictions
When you show empathy and help seniors adjust to an RCFE, it encourages them to enjoy their meals and practice good nutritional habits. This becomes especially important if the resident has to deal with dietary restrictions. Listening and acknowledging their feelings of frustration and sadness is a good first step.
Once you have gained the individual’s confidence, discuss possible ways to improve the taste of the foods they are allowed to eat. Encourage ideas from the resident and respect the individual’s feelings and decisions. If necessary, consult the resident’s physician for advice and possible modifications to the diet.
Keep Up the Fight for Good Nutrition
Preparing tasty menus, encouraging reluctant eaters, following regulations and physicians’ orders requires diligence and hard work. As you see the results of your efforts pay off with healthier and more involved residents you experience the satisfaction of happy residents and families..
Assisted Living Education is Here to Support You
Whether you require an initial RCFE Certification, RCFE and ARF Administrator Certification classes, or help with your licensing application to start an assisted living business, we are here to help you. If you have questions or other needs, contact us today.