Staff at St Laurence’s, AnglicareSA’s Residential Aged Care facility at Grange, know there is more to a meal than just food.

A dining model introduced at St Laurence’s for residents living with dementia, has seen increased interest in meals, better eating, healthy weight gain and greater interaction and conversation at meal times.

Across cultures, food is central to our rituals and social wellbeing and viewed as a positive and communal part of the day. However, with illness or ageing, this can be impacted. Research has shown that people with dementia experience weight loss, and that eating difficulties and weight loss are common in residential care facilities.

Atmosphere, aesthetics, people, aroma, appearance and presentation of food all affect the dining experience. AnglicareSA Senior Manager Residential Aged Care, Jacinta Robertson, said meal time is an important opportunity for social interaction.

“Socialising is vital for self-esteem and wellbeing and is arguably as essential as food for nourishing the body,” Ms Robertson said.

St Laurence’s dining model sought to improve wellbeing among residents living with dementia by:

  • Creating a positive eating environment;
  • Improving social connection;
  • Changing serving and plating approaches to increase appetite and intake, and
  • Making staff aware of their influence at meal times.

“This dining model is centred on client choice,” Ms Robertson said. “It involves staff being present at meal times, but not interfering. If it takes longer for a resident to finish a meal, plates aren’t cleared until all at the table have finished eating.”

Ms Robertson said dessert is only offered to the whole table when everyone has finished their main meal.

St Laurence’s Hospitality Team Leader, Rosemary Blackwell, said she loves the interaction with residents that this program has created.

“Involving our residents in their meal choices has added another level of interest and engagement at meal times,” Ms Blackwell said.

Cherie Pamment, Hospitality staff member at St Laurence’s, said she loves including residents in food choices and chatting to them about the food that they love to eat.

St Laurence’s resident Mary said she was happy because she was able to choose the food she wanted and have more of what she enjoyed eating, like peas or meat.

And the results of the new dining model speak for themselves. 70 percent of residents in one area have maintained or increased their weight. Residents who had previously struggled at meal times are now enthusiastic and happy in the dining room – and some are even asking for seconds!