Care home provides food for thought with malnutrition awareness campaign

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Gerard with Brookfield resident Molly Bamforth
Gerard with Brookfield resident Molly Bamforth

A Bradford-based care group is backing a government-funded initiative that has recently been launched in the UK to combat malnutrition among elderly people.

Czajka Care Group will be promoting and sharing the firm’s best practice in order to help others understand the importance of providing both a choice of nutritious, appetising meals to residents as well as highlighting the support many people need to eat them. Area catering supervisor at Czajka Gerard Raedcher says: “The government’s Malnutrition Prevention Project aims to increase diagnosis and treatment of malnutrition and improve care and support for those at risk. It plans to encourage whole communities, including care homes, hospitals and GP surgeries, to come together to raise awareness of malnutrition and ensure that those at risk do not fall through the net, and we are backing it all the way.”

Funded by the Department of Health, the project is being run by The Malnutrition Task Force, a group of experts which include Age UK and the British Association for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (BAPEN). The approach is currently being piloted in five different areas across England, with the results from these to be disseminated nationally.

The latest figures from BAPEN suggest that a staggering 1.3 million people over the age of 65 in the UK suffer from, or are at risk of, malnutrition and 5% of these people live in care homes.

Gerard says: “It is important to raise awareness of the dangers of malnutrition in the elderly which is usually caused by an inadequate diet and can often result in an early death. Older people are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition for a number of reasons, including changes in body composition during ageing and reduction in appetite. A decrease in both taste and smell can cause a decreased interest in food and dental problems often make it difficult to eat certain types of foods.”

Malnutrition leads to an increased susceptibility to illness and infection, increased risk of hospital admission, and longer recovery time. This negative impact on patient’s health in turn has financial implications for the NHS and the cost of malnutrition in the UK is estimated at over £3billion annually. Yet the condition often goes undiagnosed or untreated because of the incorrect belief that a reduction in appetite and weight loss is a normal part of ageing.

Gerard adds: “There are many reasons why elderly peoples’ appetites diminish but despite this, a lot can be done to monitor their nutritional intake to minimise the risk of malnutrition. The Malnutrition Prevention Project represents an excellent opportunity for professionals, carers, organisations and the public to work together to improve the nutrition of all vulnerable people in our society.”

Since the company was founded in 1983, Czajka Care Group has placed strong emphasis on the catering provision of its residents. Gerard says: “Food and mealtimes are an integral part of the overall service that we provide across our estate of nursing and retirement homes. We believe that the food we provide is just as important as the care. Mealtimes form a fundamental part of our residents’ daily routine so this is an area where we can really work hard to serve their best interests.

“When residents first move into one of our homes, they are interviewed about any likes and dislikes they might have. We then compile this information and use it to create our menus, incorporating their requests at every opportunity. We cater for the requirements of vegetarians, vegans, diabetics and those with religious diets, and have systems in place to gain feedback to further improve our operations.”

Czajka’s menus are developed on a four week cycle and updated seasonally to ensure the best available ingredients are being used.  Gerard adds: “Menus are planned with a focus on nutritional and seasonal ingredients and our strong supply chain which we have built up over several decades allows such diversity. We always use local suppliers wherever possible to allow greater control and knowledge of the origin of our stock. All our meat comes from a butcher in Saltaire village and our fruit and vegetables are supplied locally from Keighley.”

Czajka employs around 20 chefs supplemented by domestic staff in its kitchens who are all required to have full professional catering qualifications. Gerard says: “At Czajka we take quality and compliance very seriously when recruiting staff. Our team all participate in regular training to ensure they are up to date with all food preparation legislation and continually create food that is both nutritious and tasty.  In cases where a resident isn’t eating their meals, we always find out why. Our chefs are aware of those who require an extra calorie or low-fat diet and adjust their meals accordingly.”

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