Helen Willis, dietitian at apetito, one of the leading producers of award-winning and nutritious meals for care homes, looks at the challenges faced when catering to residents with chewing and swallowing difficulties – more commonly known as dysphagia…..
“Nutrition is a highly complex issue and no one can deny that diet is one of the most influential factors on the health of residents – not only can the right food prevent avoidable stays or returns to hospital, but it also makes a significant contribution to each person’s mental and physical wellbeing on a day-to-day basis.
“In most care homes today, residents hail from a wide range of cultural, social and religious backgrounds. These are all factors that will greatly influence their dietary choices before any particular health issues are factored into the equation.
“But this is only part of the story. Mealtimes are a vital part of the day and each meal should be an experience that is looked
forward to and consumed with enjoyment. A meal can contain all the nutrients in the world but if it is left uneaten, the nutritional content is irrelevant.
“When catering to residents suffering with dysphagia, ensuring those residents receive appetising, nutritious meals becomes particularly challenging.
“Understandably, the enjoyment of mealtimes can be greatly compromised for those affected by the condition, which may occur in people suffering from degenerative illnesses such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or those recovering from a stroke. Here, the potential feeding risks of choking and aspiration are compounded by longer-term issues such as aspiration pneumonia as well as malnutrition.
“The challenge is to provide food of sufficient nutritional value and safety whilst ensuring that the meals taste good and are tempting.
“apetito’s award-winning texture-modified meals do just that. Prepared in line with each of the Dysphagia Diet Food Texture Descriptors for a texture-modified diet, the range ensures safer, more confident swallowing, making meals something to look forward to, while embracing residents’ need for normal looking meals.
“In an industry first, each of these thick puréed meals is moulded to look like a traditional dish, while pre-mashed choices offer appetising colour combinations, making them look as good as they taste.
“Essentially, this ground-breaking range allows dysphagia sufferers to dine with dignity – something which is highly emotive and can make an enormous difference to those individuals who may have become fearful of mealtimes and the potential consequences therein.
Support at every step – catering for different needs
“apetito’s full selection of texture-modified meals helps homes to confidently cater to residents at various stages of dysphagia and take account of progressive pathways.
“The National Patient Safety Agency requires all care settings to provide – as a very minimum – a selection of meals that fit its ‘Category C’ and ‘Category E’ descriptors for texture-modified food. ‘Category C’ refers to thick purées for those often in the more advanced stages of dysphagia, while ‘Category E’ food is best described as ‘fork-mashable’ and is suitable for sufferers usually in the early stages.
“However, our menus also include ‘pre-mashed’ dishes, which fit ‘Category D’ descriptors and are suitable for residents who are
neither in the early nor advanced stages of the condition.
“Together, all meals across our texture-modified range help homes to meet the standards set out by the Descriptors. Not only does this eliminate the risks associated for in-house catering teams trying to attain the right texture category with limited equipment and resource, it also means dysphagia sufferers are offered meals that are just as appetising as those served to other residents.
“After all, as well as having a major influence on health and wellbeing, food is one of life’s simple pleasures. A pleasure that everyone has the right to enjoy….”
apetito is a founding partner (along with Age UK, WRVS, BAPEN and Nutricia) of The Malnutrition Task Force. Together they are working hard to address preventable malnutrition in older people and active support key national issues. The company is leading by example to help other providers across the spectrum of care catering.