Long Term Care Dining Solutions During Covid 19

Food nourishes our bodies and souls. Everyone must eat! It is one of the few things we all have in common. People bond while cooking, sampling new dishes and sharing meals in long term care dining.

So how do we continue to promote social connections related to food and mealtime, while enforcing physical distance?

Meal service at long term care facilities has changed dramatically over the last two months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) currently discourage communal meals in dining rooms, and family and friends from visiting residents. Several facilities have also downgraded from using china and flatware to disposable trays and utensils. For residents that are dependent upon routine and interaction, these changes may be devastating…and affect nutritional status. Decreased appetite and sudden weight loss, or emotional eating and weight gain may occur. To prevent these negative side-effects, carefully plan creative menus that encourage beneficial intake.

To make long term care dining in-room meals more attractive to residents:

  • Plan themed dinners – ex. Meatloaf Monday, Tuscan Tuesday (Italian cuisine), Wacky Wednesday (anything goes), Travel Thursday (dishes from around the world), Fish Friday, Southern Saturday (Southern cuisine) and Souper Bowl Sunday (soups and stews)
  • Have staff dress in themed attire when delivering meals – ex. wear sports jerseys on Souper Bowl Sundays
  • Play themed music or other music throughout the facility
  • Use colorful or patterned disposable trays, plates, utensils and napkins
  • Place pictures of loved ones and personal notes from loved ones on dinner trays
  • Garnish plates with fresh herbs and flowers

To engage residents between meals:

  • Deliver mid-morning coffee and doughnuts, or biscuits and jelly
  • Serve mid-afternoon ice cream
  • Push a mid-afternoon popcorn cart
  • Serve “high tea” with a variety of hot teas and finger sandwiches
  • Serve “happy hour” with mocktails and hors devours
  • Use fortified milk and fortified juice during med pass to provide additional calories as needed

To further control the spread of illness:

  • Ensure that food service staff are washing hands, using gloves properly and handling foods safely while serving meals and snacks
  • Clean, sanitize and disinfect all kitchen surfaces, utensils and transport carts or holding cabinets
  • Stay in contact with food suppliers and be flexible if there are any food shortages
  • If you are having difficulty developing menus, utilize your Registered Dietitian Nutritionist or the Carolina Nutrition menu team

For more information contact our office or your local regulatory agency.