Dietary & Nutrition
Nutrition & Menus
There is a direct relationship between nutrition and health. With many nursing home residents dealing with health challenges, their nutritional requirements are incredibly important. Nutritional therapy requirements exist for certain chronic diseases, and a nursing home must provide appropriate nutrition for its residents’ specific health and dietary needs. The nutritional guidelines established by CMS requires that the diets provided for residents in nursing homes promote quality of life, prevent malnutrition and disease, and prevent weight loss or gain.
The law requires the approval and advanced planning of any menus used in a nursing home. Each resident must receive the recommended daily allowances (RDA) specific to their health condition. Substitutions should be made available for any resident that requests them, and the nursing home must accommodate food preferences within reason. Each resident must receive three full meals per day and a snack at bedtime. The nursing home must cook food thoroughly, so it is safe to eat, not too bland or spicy, not burned, and served at the correct temperature.
Specific Dietary Needs
Some residents have additional or specific dietary needs or restrictions. Some residents are only able to eat soft food. Other residents that may have tremors or Parkinson’s disease should have special equipment or utensils so that they can eat as independently as possible. When a resident is unable to feed themselves, a nursing home staff member must be available to help feed them.
Doctor-prescribed diets are vital for patients with diabetes, or who have renal or bariatric issues. Some residents may have large wounds or nonhealing pressure sores and they must also receive a certain amount or type of calories that will promote healing and prevent further weight loss.
Specific Medical Conditions
Some elderly patients with certain health conditions may find it more difficult to eat for their specific nutritional needs. Nursing homes must ensure that residents are safe and healthy under their care. If a resident has dementia, they may not remember to eat or may have a decrease in appetite due to the decrease in their mental abilities. Other medical conditions such as dysphagia (trouble swallowing) or the decreased ability to taste or smell foods could also result in residents becoming averse to eating their required nutritional requirements. Some medications decrease appetite, and in some cases with less physical activity, residents simply are not as hungry as they once were.
Regardless of a nursing home resident’s challenges regarding their appetite or ability to consume food, the nursing home staff has a responsibility to ensure that residents are not undernourished or at risk for malnutrition. To ensure compliance and meet the individual needs of our residents, we have a staff that works as a team to develop our dietary program. The team includes dietitians, nurses and pharmacists.