Moving to a nursing home or group home can reduce appetite. Good and sufficient food and drink are important for the condition, resistance, autonomy, and well-being of the residents. The question is, how can we make eating in a nursing home more tasteful, enjoyable, and challenging?
Smells of baking, cooking, or heating
The smell of food is strongly linked to memories. Familiar food smells can whet the appetite. Is it possible to bake, cook or heat something on the spot? Then food scents are released that enhance the taste experience.
Make the taste experience more intense
Taste perception deteriorates with age. The (warm) meal becomes more attractive by adding recognizable flavor enhancers such as parsley and chives and spices such as nutmeg, curry powder, or ginger powder. And garlic, possibly sambal for the enthusiast.
Use contrast colors
In addition to tasting and smelling, the appearance of a meal also contributes to the taste experience. Vision usually deteriorates with age. A white plate of mashed potatoes, cauliflower, and a meatball? This could mean that only the meatball is eaten. Different colors on the plate make food. So play with contrasting colors.
Small portions with little appetite
Is there less appetite? Then don’t offer too much on a plate. Someone is better off asking for something extra than having to leave half of it (which demotivates). Serve the small portion on a large plate to make it look even more palatable.
A clear table
A fully set table is pleasing to the eye for one person. For the other client, however, it can be a confusing whole, causing him/her to be distracted, confused, and unable to find his / her way. Try to set the table clearly.
Connecting to the world of the past
Vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant, snow peas, green asparagus, fennel, broccoli, and bell pepper were not known in the Netherlands, these were only introduced in the 1970s. Older people are less likely to recognize these vegetables and may also appreciate them less. The vegetables from the past are more in line. The same goes for other things: a tablecloth used to be common, placemats were not.
Handy and eat yourself
Being able to eat the meal independently is the most pleasant for every person. If holding and using cutlery is tricky, get creative. The stew or macaroni can be eaten with a spoon. The sandwich with spread can be enjoyed folded in half. Soup and dessert can be placed in a drinking cup. Or: make sure that parts of the meal can be picked by hand (beans, potato wedges, pieces of hamburger). Making meals manageable often results in the improved intake and more self-esteem.
Help with the preparation and autonomy
Contributing to the meal preparation is of great added value for some people. Peeling a potato yourself (or just holding it, that’s also possible), scoop it yourself up or make your own sandwich: the ritual is recognizable and belongs to the meal that naturally follows. Autonomy and rituals surrounding the food contribute to the enthusiasm surrounding the food.
An environment that suits the individual
Background music or a pleasant conversation at the table is a reason for many people to eat tastier. But for others, music, conversation, and sounds are actually disturbing or distracting stimuli. They become irritated and eat and drink less. Try to match the environment to the individual.
Seeing food means eating
The proverb ‘seeing food makes eating’ speaks for itself, but does not always apply. Other people at the table have an influence on eating behavior. Have an eye and an ear for what is happening at the table.