Innovations for Senior Dining

In all my walk abouts across the country the one health care sector that seems to be so different from province to province when it comes to dining is senior dining – more specifically long term care.

Yes, acuity levels are on the rise and budgets are shrinking. Everyone is being asked to do more with less but wow, what an opportunity to be innovative and come up with some new ideas to make the dining experience a wow event. For our seniors this should be second nature to us.

Here are some ideas that may or may not spark a fire of innovation within our nation!

1. For Dining Room Service the use of Mobile Food Trolleys that have on-board heating and cooling as well as attractive, heated serving tops that use conductive warming rather than water baths. These trolleys can keep foods hot and cold and support locally assembled trays as well as course by course service in a dining room.

2. For Dining Room Service the use of Mobile Food Trolleys that have all the attributes of #1 above but also can be manufactured to retherm foods from the chilled or frozen state. They can be programmed with automatic start timers so the operator can load chilled or frozen foods ahead of time, keeping everything at safe cold holding temperatures, only to start retherm automatically at a prescribed time (i.e. without having a staff member at the trolley to press a button).

3. Bulk Trolleys that have dual ovens – allowing the operator to reheat different densities of foods – those that are heavy like lasgagne can be reheated in one section while custards or fish or other light foods can be reheated in a different section. All foods will be rethermed for the same time but the level of heat for each cavity will differ.

4. The use of trays carts for course by course dining – in other words, prepare the resident’s trayed meal in advance using an efficient trayline or work cell, prepare the entire tray cold, retherm in a tray cart (up to 30 meals at one time), take the retherm cart to the patient dining area, connect the cart to a 110 volt plug (30 amp service ) in the dining room, and begin serving residents course by course by simply going to the cart, finding the resident tray (see menu ticket) , and taking out the meal portions they would like (soup first with juice, then entree, then dessert etc).

5. For facilities doing tray service which is still happening a lot in the west and now Ontario is recognising that acuity levels dictate that some residents just can’t come to the dining lounge, then use a tray cart for hot and cold holding of foods…allowing a very attractive tray to be presented that has hot food hot and cold food cold…in other words, technology that supports hot meal preparation of trays in advance with on-board boosting capability and active temperature maintenance

6. A special retherm trolley that will retherm plated meals that are frozen in mass – the Epikura Valet for example has been specially designed to reheat frozen Epikura shaped texture modified foods…they are plated frozen and then gently brought to serving temperature – this enhances the outcome of using shaped texture modified foods and allows residents to ‘eat with their eyes’ and enjoy a familiar food even if it is texture modified

7. On-board technology that helps manage food temperatures, waste, and even tracks food temperature throughout the facility as carts are taken from the kitchen and back again.

8. Nourishment Carts – these are improving every day and now are available in a sleek attractive mobile trolley with cold drawers and retractable side shelves to increase preparation space. Using nourishment trolleys for in between snacks and/or special events help control food and ward stocks as well as increase the integrity of such programs

9. Static (i.e. not mobile, usually resting on a counter top or on a stainless steel platform) Retherm Ovens (i.e ovens built specially for retherm )  can be installed in serveries or in the kitchen with ease as they do not require venting (they are not cooking ovens but retherm/reheating ovens). Now available in various capacities, they are excellent and well priced alternatives to combi type ovens.

10. The use of Bulk Serveries (as explained in #2 above) during non meal times for activation or therapy such as baking off cookies or cakes…this can be done in Bulk Retherm Trolleys and is a great way of making the most out of your investment

11. What about a buffet breakfast with extended dining hours say two hours. When the resident wants to get out of bed they can. Nursing can then plan care with greater flexibility given the variables of individuals and their needs that change each day. And yes, a buffet table to select from with the same items each day. This would certainly be so much easier on dietary staff as they simply restock the same items…choices of yogurts, juices, cereals, hot meats, eggs. And maybe then, with dietary staff having a bit more time on their hands they could prepare an omelet to order using an induction saute pan system.

12. A French style service cart for desserts at Dinner that has the same items on it every day and maybe a daily special. The resident can have apple pie every day if they wish and not wait for the pie to come around on the menu rotation again. Imagine being able to select a dessert right from the trolley that comes to your table.