Professional Comment

The Importance of Nutrition and Hydration in a Care Home Setting

By Rob Henry, Head of Culinary Solutions and Compliance at EF-Group (

For any of us, maintaining a good, balanced diet is key to maintaining health and general well-being. However, for the elderly in a care home setting, it’s absolutely crucial. Many residents will be reliant on carers to provide the right amount of nutrition and hydration as part of their holistic care. What’s more, some residents will also require assistance with eating and drinking skills, as well as the provision of meals.

With that in mind, it’s essential that you’re not only aware of the food and drink regulations in place, but how you can build on these to improve your offering and services within a care home environment.

What happens if residents don’t receive the right nutrition?
With age, malnutrition can become more of a concern. It’s estimated that around 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 are either malnourished, or at risk. Changes that the elderly go through can lead to things like a diminished appetite or even a loss of interest in food, not to mention health conditions or changing health needs that can also impact the amount of nutrition a person receives.

It’s important to remember that residents may be a healthy weight but could still not be getting the right nutrients they need. Other signs of malnutrition might include things like muscle weakness, feeling tired, increased falls or even poor wound healing.

What’s more, older people will find it more difficult to absorb vitamin D through sunlight, and so this must be considered in their diet.

Similarly, older adults can also be a higher risk of becoming dehydrated as they may not recognise the feeling of thirst the way they used to.

Food and drink regulations for care homes
The Health and Social Care Act of 2008 was brought in to ensure all care home settings registered with the Care Quality Commission and complied with its requirements. It’s deemed to be one of the most significant reforms of social care in decades.

In particular, Regulation 14 states that the nutritional and hydration needs of residents must be met.

What care homes can do
With that in mind, it’s important that care homes have the right measures in place to keep residents as healthy as possible when it comes to nutrition and hydration. Here are some tips on how carers and kitchen staff can work together to further improve the system in place.

• Regular assessments: Every resident will have different needs, and so by carrying out frequent assessments you can determine more accurately whether residents are getting what they need from their current meals and drinks. This also gives you the chance to identify issues or changes in requirements and address it accordingly.

• Personalised plans: Being able to offer personalised meal plans means that you’ll be better equipped to meet the residents’ dietary requirements. Not only this, but it also means that you can meet their needs in regards to allergies, medical conditions and also flavour and texture preferences too. This can be critical to ensure an enjoyable mealtime and offer a more encouraging environment for residents to eat and drink.

• Supervision at mealtimes: This can be particularly crucial if residents have trouble swallowing or eating, as you’ll need to support and supervise when necessary. However, it can be helpful even for those who don’t experience this. This is because you can observe and monitor how they are with using cutlery or holding a cup, and whether they have any additional needs that you could assist with.

• Ongoing education: It’s hugely important to carry out regular training and education so that carers can continue to recognise the signs of dehydration or malnourishment. It also means they can be better placed to help residents improve their health and wellbeing.

• Emotional support and reassurance: In some cases, residents may hold back on eating or drinking because of worries with incontinence. It’s absolutely pivotal that carers can give the right emotional support and are able to reassure residents on this topic.