As part of the Taste of Gracewell campaign, head chef at Gracewell of Horley Park, Damian Sidorowicz, shares his top tips on preparing meals for residents living with dementia.
As head chef at Gracewell of Horley Park, I love what I do. I enjoy spending time preparing nutritious meals which have a personal touch and always strive to cook delicious food that can be enjoyed by everyone, including our residents living with dementia.
A good meal really can make a residents’ day, and the dining experience is something that everyone in our community enjoys immensely, which is why it’s imperative that we prepare the very best meal we can. So how do we make sure that those living with dementia enjoy the meals we serve?
First, we always try to incorporate as much colour into the meals we cook as possible. Sometimes, those with dementia struggle with sight and perception, so using contrasting colours can make it easier for them to recognise food. My team and I use special blue rim china when serving food to residents with dementia, which helps make food stand out. We also choose our ingredients carefully and use different combinations to give our meals lots of different colours, making them visible and appealing.
Secondly, we prepare food which is easy to eat and swallow, but that still looks and tastes great. Difficulty swallowing (often referred to as dysphagia) can be a common symptom experienced by those living with dementia. As a result, we focus on preparing meals which have a consistency that is easy to swallow; we call these our special dysphagia meals. If you want some examples of foods that are easy to eat scrambled eggs, ground meat, soft cooked vegetables and creamy soups are a great place to start.
When my team and I are planning our menu, we make sure that our dysphagia dishes are full of variety and that there is lots of choice on offer. In fact, I am currently working with other Gracewell homes to develop a variety of dysphagia food textures using ingredients that are high in nutrients. This creativity helps to keep our special dysphagia meals diverse, healthy and tasty.
What makes all this so worthwhile is hearing that a resident has enjoyed a meal I have prepared. I still remember a resident once said to me “chef, this meal was so good it made my day, thank you”. Comments like these are the best reward and they are the main reason I absolutely love my job!
Damian Sidorowicz was named Chef of the Year by Gracewell and Sunrise for 2017 and he is a former regional finalist for South East NACC Chef of the Year. Last year, he and his team at Gracewell of Horley Park won the National Catering Team of the Year Award at the NACC Awards (2017).