New research for Sheffield Hallam University has found that the average daily food cost for a resident in a council-funded care home is £2.44, which the researchers said is not enough to adequately feed and hydrate a frail dementia patient.

Former chef and senior lecturer in Hospitality Management Norman Dinsdale undertook the research for the University after several of his relatives and close friends needed specialist dementia care in a residential care home.

Nine residential settings were involved in the project, where caterers and managers were all interviewed.

Norman Dinsdale, who spent over 40 years in senior positions within the hospitality industry, said his aim was to understand how caterers can “improve the services they offer in care homes whilst improving and maintaining their competitive edge; their unique service propositions and their profitability; and also, to find out what steps are being taken in terms of creativity and innovation”.

He added: “Ultimately what I want is for more care homes to introduce better systems so they can give the residents more to look forward to and improve their quality of life.”

His research found that the average care home spend of £2.44 a day on food and drink for residents fell well below the £3.29 recommended in 2008 for an average council-funded care home.

In care homes, where residents were self-funding, the food and beverage budget was the highest. One of these homes included an allowance for wine with meals.

The research found care home managers and staff unsure about how to best feed dementia patients, and council-funded care homes more concerned with plating up the food for residents, regardless of whether or not they were hungry. Other findings included managers lacking knowledge about how caterers and nutritionists could work together, little awareness about guidance in improving nutritional care for dementia patients in long-term care homes, and pureed food not being plated up attractively.

Norman Dinsdale also believes that more consideration should be given to the physical environment where patients eat, and the use of blue plates and red beakers to encourage residents to eat and drink more.

He said: “Despite past and current Government strategies to improve the nutritional intake for people living in care homes, surprisingly little research is being carried out into the operational, practical and staffing aspects of feeding these residents.”

He added: “For people living with dementia, nourishing food and drink is an essential requirement. I found there was plenty of information on nutrition, dietetics and nursing but zero on how caterers and nutritionists should work together.”

More information is available at www4.shu.ac.uk.

Last reviewed 6 February 2019