Summertime brings sun and fun along with high temperatures coupled with high humidity. These conditions place a strain on everyone, especially the elderly. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to heat stress and dehydration as they do not adjust as well to sudden changes in temperature. They are more likely to have chronic medical conditions that change the body’s normal response to heat, and more likely to take prescription medications that impair the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
In instances when outside temperatures exceed 90 ̊ F, the dietary manager should coordinate or adjust the menu in such a way to provide alternate items. Foods or meals that are hot and heavy may want to be avoided during periods of hot weather.
A “Hot Weather Menu” will be developed by the dietary manager using predetermined guidelines. The dietitian should be contacted for assistance as needed and review/sign the menu after its use. All menu regulations as far as protein, fruit/vegetable, starch, Vitamin C, Vitamin A servings will remain intact. The dietary manager may want to consult with the dietitian to determine if it is allowed to serve everyone a general, non-therapeutic diet except residents with an order for a mechanically altered diet.
During extreme heat, residents should be served 8 oz water with each meal to increase hydration. Proceed with caution with those residents on fluid restrictions. The consultant dietitian should be advised if the “Hot Weather Menu” is used for more than 3 consecutive days.
Sample menu ideas are for breakfast: Hard cooked egg, bread, cold cereal, juice, milk and water. For lunch: ¾ cup cold plate with bread, vegetable, fruit and water. For dinner: ½ cup cold plate with bread, vegetable, fruit, milk and water.
Other “Hot Weather Menu” meal suggestions are: Egg salad, chicken salad, fruit and cheese plate, chef’s salad, ham salad, tuna salad, turkey salad, cold cuts, roast beef, ham, turkey, chicken and peanut butter. Simple salads can be: pasta salad or macaroni salad with crackers. Vegetables can be: garden salad, coleslaw, carrot salad, cucumber salad, corn relish, kidney bean salad, marinated vegetable, potato salad, 3-bean salad or pea salad.
Always ensure safe food handling procedures and appropriate food temperatures are maintained.
Other ways to increase hydration during “Hot Weather Menu” use are to:
- Have beverage cart or hydration station at nursing stations throughout the day
- Ensure water readily available at bedside (use caution with those on restricted fluids; check with the doctor for orders)
- Ensure thickened water/juices readily available at nursing stations/ nursing cart for those who receive thickened liquids
- Pass popsicles or Italian ice during snack times and/or activities
Keep your residents safe and healthy during the blistering hot summer days and change the menu as needed if the weather outside becomes dangerously hot.