As we age our sense of taste and smell can alter which can affect appetite and enjoyment of food.  Our bodies also become less able to absorb some nutrients so it can be harder to get all the necessary goodness from our food and we call this malnutrition.  

Older people in care homes can be at risk of this and this is bad because it can result in muscle loss, weakness and fatigue, poor mobility, depression, delayed wound healing, increased risk of infection and slow recovery

It is important to offer residents a varied diet that takes into account personal preferences. Simple things at the home can make a big difference such as

  • encouragement and help at meal times

  • using food aids

  • a pleasant environment at meal times

  • good oral hygiene

  • and meals that look good enough to eat
Person

Encouraging an older person to eat enough nourishing food can be challenging.

Make sure that glasses, hearing aids and dentures are properly in place before starting to eat

Ensure that the person is in a supported, upright and comfortable position for eating and drinking.

Be flexible with meals and meal times

Ensure that different food choices which respect religious, ethnic and personal preferences are offered at each meal time.

If the person needs assistance with feeding, make sure you explain what the food is before you start to feed them. See if they can still hold the spoon even if they need you to help them load it.

Environment

Mealtimes should be enjoyable social times as eating are not just for the nutrients.

Being with someone at mealtime may help improve the appetite.

Make sure any special eating and drinking equipment that is needed is used at each mealtime eg specialist cups, stay-warm plates, teaspoons

Plain coloured crockery usually contrasts well with food.

If using a tablecloth or placemat, choose a plain colour to avoid confusion, and choose a different colour to that of the crockery so that the edge of the plate is clear.

Removing table decorations may also help.

Eating in a calm setting that is distraction free is a pleasant experience

Food

They say we ‘eat with our eyes’ and the look of our food is the first thing that makes us want to eat.  

Food should look and smell appealing

Offer small portions if someone is finding a large plateful off putting.

Allow plenty of eating time and reheat food if necessary so as to maintain meal appeal

To help avoid confusion, serve one course at a time.

Avoid clearing the table before the meal is finished

Resources