Providence Healthcare
Providence Healthcare

Shannon McManus, registered dietitian in the Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence (left) is pictured here with resident Lisa Fitzsimmons. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

The right diet for health and quality of life

The role of a registered dietitian in a long-term care home

By Selma Al-Samarrai

Registered dietitians work closely with clients to identify a diet plan that fits both their health challenges and personal preferences.

In long-term care homes, the primary focus of the conversation is often about agreeing on the right meal plan for residents that balances healthy eating and quality of life, says Shannon McManus, who has been a registered dietitian in the Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence for ten years.

“My goal is to keep residents comfortable and satisfied with their meal options while managing their medical nutrition issues,” says McManus.

“My priority is always the resident – is my concern of concern to them? Do they want my help or suggestions? And if they are agreeable to my suggestions, how can I modify their diet in a minimal way that doesn’t significantly impact their quality of life?”

An average day for McManus looks something like this: she works with long-term care residents and their families, and nurses and dietary staff to assess any nutritional issues that a resident may have. She then implements dietary interventions that ensure the resident is eating well, enjoying their meals and getting the nutrients they need.

McManus commonly assesses nutritional issues such as weight loss, dysphagia, self-feeding difficulties, hydration and constipation, and others that occur in association with illnesses such as dementia, heart disease, diabetes and renal failure.

“There is a high prevalence of malnutrition in the elderly population for a variety of reasons, often related to swallowing impairment, dementia or other health issues. Dietitians plan menus to meet individual nutrition need, maximize safety, minimize risk and maintain quality of life,” said McManus.