6 Tips for Building a Data-Driven Memory Care Dining Program

Senior Housing News Discusses Belmont Village’s Innovative Dining

Without significant medical advances, the year 2050 will see the number of people with Alzheimer’s double from today’s level, reaching nearly 14 million. The total number of dementia patients across the globe could triple during that timeframe, hitting 152 million.

And no one agrees how to feed them.

In interviews with memory care operators, chefs, food service providers, dietitians, gerontologists and outside thought leaders, a clear picture emerges: despite developing solid memory care dining methodologies, memory care dining leaders struggle to say with certainty that their program is best, because no definitive, evidence-based industry standard exists.

Still, despite the lack of a singular memory care dining practice, leaders agree on many general strategies, and even some specific dining approaches and menu items. Here are five tips providers can use to build a data-driven memory care dining program.

Make observational assessments of each resident’s needs level

Time and again, interviews and research about the future of memory care dining yield a key concept: the importance of a person-centered approach. Everything can and should be built around the individual as much as possible, including the menu, the dining schedule, the dining space and the equipment. That requires an assessment from an expert who can determine each resident’s dementia journey stage.

Beverly Sanborn of Belmont Village Senior Living is one such expert. A gerontologist and vice president of program development for the Houston-based senior living provider, Sanborn wrote Belmont Village’s memory care program. When she visits a Belmont Village community she always does so at meal time to perform an assessment.

There, she can see what stage residents are at in their dementia journey, based on what they do during mealtime. She can then see the skill level the staff have at delivering prompts, cues and other assistance.

“When people have a (dementing) illness … every skill from holding their glass to knowing what to do with food, knowing how to handle utensils, knowing how to bring their fork with their food to their mouths — each one of those is a complex skill,” Sanborn says. “Gradually, all of those skills begin to fade, and they fade in a patterned way.”

Those patterns inform Sanborn’s assessment of each resident’s dementia stage. From there, the dining program can be built.

Read the complete article on SeniorHousingNews.com.