Our Roving Chef, Jane Hughes, got to grips with some tricky packaging at a recent conference.
I attended this year’s NACC (National Association of Care Catering) conference last week and it was a real eye-opener. I know a lot about vegetarian and vegan food, but I must admit I am still learning when it comes to planning meals for elderly people in care who are struggling to eat for various reasons.
Dysphagia is a condition that means people have trouble swallowing – some can tolerate soft foods while others need very smooth purees. There is a real art to making this sort of food look appetising – which is important when you are working with people who have small appetites. I was amazed by the silicon moulds that can be used to make, for example, pea puree look more like a portion of peas on the plate.
The concept of fortified foods isn’t new to me, but I hadn’t realised that it’s not always about vitamins and minerals. For elderly people who are eating very little, it’s important to boost up the calories. One creative chef gave a demonstration of teeny pureed desserts that packed in the calories – yummy but the tasters on offer were around 400 calories per pot!
I also took part in a workshop designed to demonstrate how it feels to be an elderly person. Run by Age UK, this is an award-winning training course that is being taught all over the UK. Participants wear glasses to disrupt their vision, and gloves to limit their hand movements and reduce sensitivity to touch. Trying to read menus and posters, to open little packets of biscuits and cheese, even to distinguish what was on a plate was shockingly difficult.
There’s a lot to learn about how we can help older people to enjoy meal times and I hope to use my new knowledge to create some useful resources.