At Atalian Servest we offer catering services across a variety of sectors, including healthcare. The portfolio of healthcare clients across the UK is expanding at a monumental pace, growing to include care homes and care villages. While the fundamental principles of catering remain the same in every industry, there is no doubt that the role of people is heightened in the healthcare sector. Treating people as individuals with distinct qualities and seeing the world through their eyes is imperative.
What people often find the most surprising about catering in the healthcare sector, particularly care homes, is the complexity of operations. A common misconception is that it simply involves cooking up a few meals for the elderly. Whereas, the reality is quite the opposite.
Serving nutritious, well-balanced and appropriate food is all part of patient care, which can make a real difference to the quality of life of those under our care. Just one example of this is when a resident had returned from a stay in hospital, in order to facilitate a speedy recovery, their meals were fortified to ensure they received extra calories and nutrients.
We work to the mindset that prevention is always better than a cure, which involves the catering team working in tandem with the onsite care professionals. If all residents are fed a balanced and nutritious daily meal as well as being appropriately hydrated, it should ensure any illness related stays in hospital are minimised.
A condition that is extremely common is dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), but a challenge we faced when planning dishes was presenting pureed/soft food in an attractive way. In order to mitigate this challenge, we introduced an innovative concept called ‘Dining with Dignity’, which involves the process of using a mould to transform and reshape the visual appearance of pureed food.
The appearance of pureed food can make the food appear unappetising, but mould’s make the food appear just as edible as non-pureed food. Promoting dignity at mealtimes is imperative, and ensures all residents have a good quality of life and enjoy eating. The wide range of food mould’s available means that there are a variety of meal options, giving customers a choice on what they consume.
For many, the consumption of food is a social experience, therefore, the loss of a partner or family often results in people eating alone, which, often takes the pleasure out of eating. Other ailments such as swallowing problems, dental issues and reduced taste and smell also affect an individual’s desire to eat.
This is why the ‘Way We Care’ training course was introduced for colleagues across our catering service, it is without doubt a very powerful training device. It involves team members wearing items that replicate the impact of various ailments and conditions which the elderly commonly suffer.
For example, we use glasses that simulate eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and partial sight loss. In order to simulate the effects of arthritis, specialist gloves are used in addition to joint weights and restraints to mimic the effects post a stroke. Ear plugs are also used to simulate hearing loss to heighten the sense of loneliness. This exercise acts as such a powerful learning tool by giving an insight into many elderly people’s lives.
Another training course we are committed to providing is ‘Dementia Friends’, which has so far been provided to over 125 Atalian Servest catering colleagues, from chefs to managers. Dementia Friends is an initiative run by Alzheimer’s Society, one of our Charities of the Year, which aims to transform the way the individuals think, act and talk about the condition.