Posted on Friday, 24th April, 2020
We have reviewed and summarised the key changes for Aged Care Chefs, kitchens, and dining staff as the reality of COVID-19 continues to impact the Aged Care sector.
Aged Care kitchens have been more prepared than most to deal with a virus outbreak. With strict food safety and hygiene protocols already in place, Aged Care facilities were able to update and intensify existing practices as well as incorporate stricter social isolation and quarantine measures, in order to keep residents safe and healthy.
1. Food safety and hygiene
Food safety and hygiene has always been paramount, however all kitchen staff and dining service carers must practice extra vigilance. Review your protocols and give all staff a refresher on everything they must be doing now.
We discuss food safety and hygiene further in this article.
2. Simplified (or backup) menus
Reliability of supply and price increases on some vegetables and fresh produce have been a concern for Aged Care Chefs, as they endeavour to create delicious and nutritious meals for their residents.
We recently surveyed Chefs about this, and some have mentioned preparing to deal with these challenges by creating a simplified version of their menu plans and streamlining meal preparation. Many Chefs are anticipating extra pressure on kitchens due to potential reduction in staff numbers because of illness, and are making sure their kitchens and meal plans are as easy as can be for any disruptions to staff levels and an increase in casual staff.
With social distancing in place in all Aged Care facilities, the dining experience requires more attention to make sure residents are not feeling alone and still receive the required assistance during mealtimes. Keeping meals simple yet nutritious makes in-room dining and staggered sitting times easier to manage.
We have put together some simple yet delicious meal ideas for you to download here.
3. Helping residents stay connected
Feeling connected and part of a community, as well as good health, have been shown to be linked. With the COVID-19 situation, it is all the more important to help your residents stay connected and engaged during these times.
As most facilities implement strict lockdown policies, helping your residents feel they are still part of the community and helping them stay in touch with their families, friends and other residents will benefit not only their mood, but also how likely they are to maintain a healthy diet.
The Lantern Project’s FaceBook page also has ongoing ideas for keeping residents connected.
Another simple yet great idea to stimulate residents’ connection with the outside world is to set up a ‘Wave to a Teddy Bear’ activity. Encourage residents with street-facing windows, and especially those who love to gaze out of the window every now and then, to place a teddy bear or soft toy in their window. Then, place a sign on the sidewalk to let passers-by know to wave and smile if they see a resident at the window with a toy in it. Families with children may be especially engaged and your residents will no doubt delight in that simple yet meaningful interaction.
4. Looking after high-care residents
One of the biggest issues with the lockdown has been with high-care residents who often rely on family and friends, not only for company, but also for help with eating and at meal times. With stretched budgets and limited time for care staff, having a family member to help regularly at meal times can make a big difference to staff workload. As many Aged Care facilities now have a strict no-visitor policy, the impact of not having this additional help is being felt. It has been suggested that family members could be trained in the correct food safety and hygiene practices. However, no moves have been made to implement this.
5. Stay positive for your staff and your residents
Keeping your staff morale high is also important for Head Chefs and Chef Managers. It may take some extra effort to bring positivity and joy to your workplace at a time like this, but the flow-on effects from you and your staff to your residents will be invaluable. Creating a happy and fun work environment can be as simple as making a positive, upbeat music playlist for the kitchen to keep your staff feeling the good vibes.
Many of your residents may not fully understand what is happening, but they will pick up on the mood of staff and carers. When interacting with residents, try not to change familiar routines any more than necessary and keep the conversation light and interesting.
6. Adopt the technology to help
For residents who have close family and friend connections, the new ban on visitors will be challenging. It can be difficult and overwhelming for elderly residents to navigate new technologies. Helping your residents navigate apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Zoom and FaceTime will help them to stay in touch with their families and friends. Encourage families to provide a smartphone, tablet or laptop, so residents can make contact whenever they need to.
Other apps to encourage connection are such as Words With Friends, an online version of Scrabble; Houseparty, which allows up to 8 people to communicate and play games like Trivia and Heads Up; and Netflix Party, a web browser extension to watch a film with a group of people at the same time yet apart—popcorn optional.
Engaging in food safety and hygiene best practices at your facility, ensuring your staff and residents are healthy both physically and mentally, and making sure your residents feel engaged and connected to their family, friends and community—this will all go a long way towards helping everyone navigate the COVID-19 situation in the best possible manner.