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Blogs / 17.09.2021

Dignified Dining: Meeting the Needs of Someone Living with Dementia

Alzheimer’s Society, one of the UK’s leading dementia charities quotes that 70% of people in care homes are living with dementia or suffer from severe memory problems. The condition affects approximately 1 in 14 people over the age of 65, rising to 1 in 6 people over 80.

Developed with support from Alzheimer’s Disease International our ‘Dignified Dining Toolkit’ is an exclusive package of resources built to support our Care Home colleagues to support the dining requirements of those living with Dementia.

Following 5 years of refinement, this year will mark the official re-launch of the industry leading toolkit…


Maintaining a diet that meets individual nutritional requirements can be difficult for those living with dementia, but also for those supporting them. Read on to learn how we manage the experience for our incredible Care Home Residents across the UK.

It’s not uncommon for people living with dementia to experience changes in their appetite and food preferences.

Even the smallest change to a dining routine can lead to difficulty when attempting to recognise the meal in front of them. Variations to flavour profiles, presentation and even the setting in which they are eating can trigger a negative dining experience.

But it’s important to note, which reactions occur are truly unique to each and every Resident. That’s why we will continue to promote the use of our ‘Personal Food Passport,’ the cornerstone of 2021’s refreshed Dignified Dining Toolkit.

Personal Food Passport

This exhaustive document captures an individual’s unique dining preferences, beyond the classic confines of basic ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’…

The Personal Food Passport catalogues important preferences such as special diets, cultural/religious considerations, food and drink consistency, right down to whether a Resident prefers sugar or sweetener in their tea and what portion size of food they prefer.

Residents are asked how they prefer to dine, the pace of which they enjoy eating, how they like to choose their meals for example; picture menus/ verbal/non-verbal, right the way through to any specialist equipment and cutlery they like to use.

This approach has proved a successful way to help teams across our Care portfolio provide a consistently enjoyable dining experience for those living with dementia.

Updates to the Dignified Dining Toolkit

The comprehensive guide for teams responsible for supporting the nutritional care for Care Home Residents has undergone several important updates to incorporate the very latest changes in care guidance.

Food, Environment and Service sections have also undergone a refresh, overseen by Helen Ream, Registered Dietitian of Compass Group UK Healthcare.

Helen benefits from over 20 years of experience working within both the NHS and private sector, the last six being spent working within the Compass Group UK Healthcare division. Helen was keen to share her insight into the importance of delivering a truly dignified dining experience…

“It’s been a labour of love being involved in the evolution of the Dignified Dining Toolkit. No doubt many of us will have witnessed Dementia in some form during our lifetime, so we can fully appreciate how important it is to recognise the unique requirements of anyone living with the condition.

Whilst the toolkit has been updated to provide consistent guidance, training and advice, its application encourages teams to take an individualised approach towards food and dining. Creating a welcoming and enjoyable dining experience for those living with Dementia requires a great deal of understanding; no two Residents are the same.

I recall one of our team completing a food passport with the family member of a resident with dementia who was struggling to settle and eat well at mealtimes. The family member mentioned that whilst the resident ate most things they would usually sit on their own and read a newspaper with their meals.

The team recognised this anecdote as an opportunity to customise their dining experience to something more familiar. The resident sat at the table, having been provided with a newspaper and ate much better as a result. The change was instantaneous! A clean plate and a happy Resident.

It’s moments like that why we value the Toolkit so much.”

Understanding their Needs… Three important considerations for catering to anyone living with Dementia

We deliver thousands of personalised meals to people living with Dementia in Care Homes across the UK every year. Our experience has taught us that success relies upon our ability to uncover every Resident’s unique dining preference, before tailoring an approach to meet their needs:

1) LEARN THEIR FOOD STORY

Everyone likes to experience food in their own way. Some like to dine communally, others alone. Some like to experiment with new flavours and recipes, others are happiest with the meals they know best.

Whether they’re motivated by past routines or even new feelings towards food, it’s important to understand what’s driving those decisions.

2) CONSIDER THE DETAILS

Every detail, no matter how small could affect how likely they are to dine and ultimately, enjoy their meal.

For example, changes in visual and spatial abilities can make it challenging for someone living with dementia to distinguish between items placed in front of them. In this scenario, consider the colour of crockery and table mats, placement of ingredients on the plate through to the suitability of cutlery to create a more comfortable experience for the individual.

3) INDEPENDENCE VS. ADAPTIVE MEASURES

Different stages of dementia can present new challenges when it comes to dining, but it’s important to help individuals maintain their independence as much as is responsible to do so. For example, a Resident may begin to experience difficulty using cutlery, but that doesn’t mean taking their favourite Fish dinner off the menu! Instead, adapt classic elements of the recipe into finger food, making it simpler for the individual to enjoy their meal independently.

Dignified Dining: a final word

There are currently over 525,000 individuals living in the UK with a Dementia diagnosis and as people continue to live longer, that number continues to rise. Every day, almost 600 people in the UK develop dementia.

Food will always be a powerful force in bringing joy, satisfaction and fulfilment to people’s lives, which is why giving our teams access to resources such as the Dignified Dining toolkit is so important.

WE’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!

To learn more about the services White Oaks provide in the UK Care Home Sector, get in touch with Cristel Worth, our Head of Partnerships, on +44 (0)1822 813802 or via email at cristel.worth@compass-group.co.uk.

 

References & credits:

1 https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-us/news-and-media/facts-media

2 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dementia/about/

3 https://www.dementiauk.org/get-support/diagnosis-and-next-steps/what-is-dementia/

4 https://www.alz.org/help-support/caregiving/daily-care/food-eating

5 https://www.dementiastatistics.org/statistics/diagnoses-in-the-uk/

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