Company News

The Value of a Varied Diet in Skilled Nursing Facilities

May 9, 2019

As residents enter a skilled nursing facility it is vital to their overall well-being to feel a level of control over what they are eating each day, as well as to feel that their specific dietary needs have been addressed. These facilities must meet standard requirements to serve a certain level of nutritious meals and snacks to their residents and to achieve basic levels of food safety and preparation. But beyond this, they can tailor daily offerings to ensure their residents feel as comfortable and “at home” as possible.

At The Allure Group, several dietary options are offered, whether residents are looking for Asian, Latin or Kosher fare. Our six facilities also customize their menus to our clientele at each location. For example, we serve Kosher menus at our King David and Bedford Centers, Chinese food at our Hamilton Park location and American and Spanish dishes at the Crown Heights Center. We also change the menus every season, and hold tastings for our residents when we do so. With this mix of choices, residents can look forward to meal times, secure in the knowledge that they will be able to have what is familiar to them.

Beyond meeting clients’ expectations as far as types of cuisine, dietary offerings at skilled nursing facilities must also take a wide variety of nutritional and dietary needs into consideration. Each resident requires differing recommended daily allowances due to their different conditions, and each may need special accommodations such as food served in a way that can be consumed if a resident has difficulty chewing or swallowing. There are also specialized and therapeutic diets. In addition, doctors and nutritionists may also be called in to structure diets according to residents’ needs.

Providing varied diets has many positive outcomes beyond nutrition that address the intangible emotions associated with having a choice about what you eat and its effect on overall patient mental health. Since residents new to skilled nursing facilities must quickly adjust to having meals and snacks at certain times and with limited choices, giving them the ability to select their meals from a menu has been shown to facilitate the adjustment to the new environment.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics even goes so far as to advocate for menu choices above careful balance of nutrition — though both are important — because the former enhances quality of life. Skilled nursing facilities have to combat factors such as isolation, depression and deteriorating physical conditions that may lessen interest in or ability to consume food. Older patients can be nutritionally vulnerable, but through proper evaluation and monitoring, they can avoid declining or having to be hospitalized due to poor nutrition.

Additionally, as percentages of undernutrition experienced by residents can be high, the more variety of menu choices are offered, the more likely residents are to consume a balanced selection of choices. In fact, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services now require sufficient personnel to ensure safe delivery of food and more staff also means residents receive three balanced meals a day with allowances for special dietary needs. Ethnic, cultural or religious needs such as those The Allure Group takes into consideration are vital to patient satisfaction, and having trained dietitians, nutritionists and doctors on staff raises the level of meal quality and a facility’s ability to meet individual dietary needs.

The value of providing varied menus at skilled nursing facilities is both tangible in terms of nutrition and overall health as well as crucial to overall happiness and satisfaction with daily life. Residents appreciate feeling in control of what they have to eat at each meal and if they feel respected and their specific religious and cultural needs are addressed, they are more likely to eat well and stay engaged in the process.