Meal times are a crucial part of the day for care home residents. Dan (and some of our friends) offer their tips to make your relative's meal times more appetising.

If you’re unhappy with your relative’s dining experience, tell the care home manager. Let them know you have a few ideas that will cost hardly anything, but will make a world of difference for your relative and the other diners.

Tips in this article include:

  1. Protected environment
  2. The dining room
  3. Seating and tables
  4. Guests
  5. Games
  6. Eating out

Protected environment

For many residents dining is the most important time of the day, so it’s essential to get all the elements right. Access should be easy and straightforward, so get rid of clutter. Leave drugs trolleys outside in the hall. Ban any doctors or nurses for a few hours and let residents eat in a comfortable, happy environment.

The dining room

When people dine in their own homes, they like the feeling of familiarity and intimacy. It’s the same in care homes. If the dining room looks like a restaurant, get the care home manager to change it. Imagine you’re going there as an older person for the first time. Restaurants can be intimidating at the best of times – even more so if you have only recently arrived in the home. If residents are unhappy they will not come to the dining room and will simply eat in their rooms. Their diets will inevitably suffer as a consequence.

Seating and tables

Make it comfortable. Often people start to sit down for their lunch before midday. They will be there for a while, so try out the seat and see if you would like to spend several hours on it. If not, get someone to change it. Also, what’s on the tables? Flowers are very nice, but why not put something more interesting on the table. One activities provider recently bought some very cheap large furry dice for the lunch tables. In no time residents started throwing them around, counting the dots and playing games with them. It created an entirely different eating environment.


Suggest to the care home manager that guests for lunch would be a fun idea. Get the local fire brigade to come along. They’re always fun and the residents and relatives love to talk to them. What about schools or the police? This makes dining more fun and connects the residents with the outside world.


There are a number of innovative games ideas out there which can stimulate conversation and reminiscence. An example is the Chatterbox game, which includes 27 different memory triggering cards with from the 1950's including a variety of themes common to the era such as Brylcreem, beehive hairdo's, bomb sites and Butlins.

Eating out

Many residents are too frail to go out, so why not give them an eating out experience inside the home. One favourite is a picnic in the garden when the weather warms up. Talk to the care home manager and organise a day when you can bring in a hamper with your mum or dad’s favourite food. Make it a special occasion and plan it for a few weeks ahead, so they feel that it’s special.