It’s National Nutrition and Hydration Week this week, so our Regional Wellbeing Coordinator, Georgie, provides some top tips on how you can use food and drink to engage residents…
It’s easy to forget how important good hydration and nutrition are – particularly for those who live in care homes. Yet it is an essential part of our health and quality of life, no matter our age – a balanced diet helps to give our body the right nutrients and energy it needs to function, reducing our risk of developing chronic health conditions and helping us fight colds and infections.
Dehydration can have significant consequences for residents; therefore, good hydration can help prevent Urinary Tract Infections, which often lead to confusion and other complications. It can be more difficult for residents to recognise when they are thirsty, and often harder for them to physically get a drink for themselves.
So, here are Georgie’s Top 10 tips on how to use food and drink activities to engage residents to stay hydrated and eat healthily whilst living in their care home…
Tickle the taste buds.
Giving residents the opportunity to try new, healthy food options will provide stimulation. A taste testing is great for this, with residents voting on which they prefer – the results could inform future menu choices for the kitchen team. Or, to bring a new dimension to baking, try using fruit and vegetables in muffins, cakes or tray bakes – try carrot cake, courgette muffins or chocolate beetroot brownies. Residents may be interested in guessing the flavour following a blind taste test.
Chatting and reminiscing about food can be a great, quick and easy way to get stomachs rumbling. Chat in a group, or one-to-one, about favourite recipes, recipes that residents have enjoyed throughout their lives, or maybe different recipes from their culture. You can have baking and tasting sessions in the following weeks to try some of these out, and create a cookbook for your home.
By having food and drink available throughout the day, this will encourage residents to increase their consumption – after all, most people enjoy a snack or two (or three!) over and above their meals. Working with the kitchen team to make healthy snacks available will encourage residents to eat outside of mealtimes. Having Hydration Stations around the home can help to encourage residents to drink more.
Adapt to resident preferences.
By enabling food activities offered to be tailored to each resident, this will make options more appealing – for example, you can jazz up the end of your week up by creating Fruit Kebabs with residents, with each resident selecting their favourite fruits to go on the kebab.
Fit and functional.
Being active and eating fibre rich foods can help with constipation – some residents may be reluctant to eat due to concerns about this. Incorporating regular active sessions, with healthy snacks and fluids in the middle, will aid the digestion process.
Hydration beyond water.
Not all residents will enjoy drinking plain water, so you can be creative in providing foods and other drinks with a high fluid content. By making jelly in small sweet size moulds, residents may be more inclined to try these jelly sweets, as they don’t always associate jelly with fluid intake. Equally, lollies in various flavours can not only hydrate, but also provide great reminisce for residents – why not freeze some milk and put a lollypop stick in the milk before it freezes, just like residents may have had when they were younger. See if anyone can remember having cold milk in a glass bottle at School!
Variety is the spice of life.
Mixing up the liquids on offer can help increase residents’ hydration levels in a different and exciting way. How about iced decaffeinated coffees, iced decaffeinated teas, flavoured teas or flavoured hot chocolates? Adding fresh fruit to water gives flavour and colour, which is great for residents that may be reluctant to drink plain water.
Involve and engage.
Encourage residents to come up with different types of smoothies, make these at your home with fruit and vegetables, or buy a variety of different smoothies and ask residents to have a try. This can be great to keep residents hydrated after an exercise session, plus you can make a competition to name the smoothies. Or, try making some fizzy drinks with different flavours, such as strawberry or raspberry, for a great sensory experience for residents.
Keep it accessible.
Carrying a water bottle around with you throughout your day not only keeps you hydrated, but reminds residents to drink when they see someone else drinking. You may need to get water bottles with long bendy straws for some residents, especially those being nursed in bed, so that these are easily accessible.
Warm it up.
Try heating up drinks that would usually be consumed cold, such as milk, as some residents may prefer their drinks warm. You could also provide a warm cup of soup, this can be a great way for residents to hydrate, as this is often seen as food and not a liquid intake.