Just like in any family, mealtime at Homeland Center is one of the most anticipated times of the day. The residents look forward to not only another delicious meal, but also to the social aspects of gathering in the dining room with friends, staff, and families.
What does differ slightly is that seniors have unique dietary needs, so Homeland Center’s first goal is to ensure basic nutrition.
“The primary challenges of meeting the nutritional needs of the elderly is ensuring that they eat enough food to prevent weight loss and consume enough fluids to prevent dehydration,” says Yolanda Williams, registered dietitian and director of food services at Homeland Center. Williams and her team work to meet those needs by planning menus in accordance with the Dietary Guidelines for America and Dietary Reference Intakes.
Additional challenges beyond basic nutrition exist as adults age. Many seniors are prescribed therapeutic diets to help manage specific diseases or conditions.
“Carbohydrate controlled diets are recommended for individuals with diabetes, low sodium diets are recommended for individuals with congestive heart failure,” Williams explains. Medications also can require dietary stipulations. And often, needs can change.
To stay on top of changing nutritional needs, Homeland Center’s dietitians complete nutritional assessments for each resident.
Homeland Center seeks balance
“When residents enter a facility, the goal is about quality of life,” Williams says. Mealtimes tend to be an important part of the day for residents, not only nutritionally but socially as well.
The goal is to accommodate their unique preferences as often as possible.
“Something as simple as cinnamon on their applesauce or their choice of ice cream flavor; those small details can make a resident’s day,” she says.
Homeland’s food services team works with the doctors, nurses and families to individualize and liberalize each resident’s diet. Sometimes it takes a little creativity to make everyone happy, but the efforts go a long way in assuring a positive quality of life.
Homeland Center’s strategies to balance nutritional needs and personal preferences include:
- Nutritional supplements
- Working with families to address special requests
- Adjusting medications
- Evaluating whether the restrictive diet is really necessary
Let them eat cake, or ice cream!
“My philosophy is if you take care of yourself by making healthy lifestyle choices when you’re young, then once you reach 80 and beyond you can sit back and eat all the ice cream you want,” Williams says. “At this point you deserve it!”