Unidine has developed a comprehensive nutrition program called Fresh Bites that is specifically designed for senior living communities serving memory care patients. Rollout to the company’s new and existing senior living clients is slated to begin in early 2016.
The product of 18 months of research and testing, the program uses specific ingredients, intricate recipe assembly, visual menus and specialized staff training to produce nutritionally dense bite-sized meals that can be eaten easily without the need for utensils, since many memory care patients lose motor skills and often wander during mealtimes.
Using ingredients such as rice paper, polenta, potato cups and cucumber slices to create vessels and wraps, Unidine’s chefs created an extensive, tested recipe collection for both mealtimes and snacks, fine-tuning specific sizes and shapes that are not too small to pick up or too large to handle in one bite. Temperature controls ensure that foods are cool enough to hold while still warm. Neither dry fillings, which often fall apart, nor boiled vegetables, which can be too slippery, are used in the recipes.
"Before Fresh Bites, menu choices for memory care were often limited to sandwiches and chicken fingers or facilities would cut up regular menu item foods,” explained Unidine Founder/CEO Richard Schenkel in a release announcing the program. “We found that miniature versions of foods are more stable and our clients have told us that the variety in our menu cycles changes the whole experience.”
He added that some clients have had good results by offering Fresh Bites from the nurses' station versus the dining room for those who struggle to remain seated.
Another critical component of Fresh Bites is the infusion into recipes of specific ingredients such as turmeric, broccoli, cabbage, green tea, blueberries and dark chocolate that have shown promise in improving cognitive function.
Unidine's memory care dining program development began as a collaboration with client Integrace-Copper Ridge, a model residential community in Sykesville, Md. that has been dedicated to the treatment and support of those with Alzheimer's and related dementias for over 20 years. Over time additional Unidine clients have infused nutrition-focused programming, often adding a dedicated dining service team member to their memory care unit.
The company has responded with commitments to on-site training of kitchen and support staff, as well as certification of numerous dietitians as Certified Dementia Practitioners.
Schenkel noted that his team is also working with clients on visual menus, enticing aromas, brightly colored serving plates and techniques to help maintain the natural reflex of self-feeding. "We know we can leverage the science of nutrition and our culinary talent so memory care patients can dine with dignity and have an enhanced quality of life," he said.
Unidine placed #14 on FM's 2015 Top 50 Contract Management Companies listing with 2014 revenues of $249 million. The company operates primarily in the healthcare segments, particularly senior dining.
Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]