Home carers and food dates

Hi all,

Have not posted here much lately as things have settled down, Mum in Law is in a routine and most things working well.

However, one niggling concern is her home carers not observing use by dates and possibly feeding her out of date food. MIL is chair bound, cannot walk at all so has 4 care visits a day, who deal with all her personal care and meals. We do her shopping once a week and I am very careful to get best date on perishable/fresh foods, trying to ensure they last until the our next week shopping visit, but not always possible. MIL has a list of what we buy her so she should know what is in her fridge/food cupboard on any given day, as she cannot access the kitchen to see for herself. She is not the easiest to feed - we have tried Wiltshire meals, supermarket ready meals etc, but she doesn’t like them and would rather have a sandwich. We have recently settled on tinned stew (looks horrible to me but she enjoys it) and frozen fish in sauces, but she still likes things like cooked meats, prawns etc, which all have a relatively short shelf life, plus if opened, will only last 2-3 days at most before they are past their best. With fruit, veg, bread etc, is not such a worry, but we have called in on a weekend to find the prawn pack open from the previous week and festering in the fridge, then MIL says, I fancy a prawn sandwich for lunch. When we tell her they are 3 days over so we have chucked them in the bin, she gets upset that they were wasted, but the issue of most concern is whether the lunchtime carer would have actually given them to her. A few months ago, her lifeline company called us at 3am to say she had thrown up all over her bed. When we got there, she blamed her tablets which had been changed a few days before, but then said she had a cold meat sandwich for tea … checking her fridge revealed a packet of ham, albeit out of date that day, but we had no indication how long it had been opened and it was several days since we bought it. We often find a tin of corned beef or packet of bacon open in the fridge with no idea how long its been like that.

I used to work in a kitchen and we had to label everything with the date opened and shelf life. Fridge was checked every day and anything past using was ditched. Same when I worked in a day centre - all fridges were rotated daily, anything near date was used or past, was dumped.

Surely these carers have some food safety training? I am thinking of buying food labels and asking them to use them and observe the dates better. We have already put notes on the front of the fridge to remind them to check dates and the first few disappeared until we taped it so tightly they couldn’t remove them!

Anyone had similar issues and suggest how to deal with it please.

Our carers would never give anything that was out of date. They once tried to make me throw away a bottle of milk that was one day overdue, but it seemed OK for me, but you never know I suppose. I didn’t let my caree have it but I did use it myself.
They really should have such training. I imagine the problem starts when they are using a packet that was in time when they opened it. But surely it shouldn’t happen?

Does your mother have a freezer? I have a bag of frozen prawns in the freezer (for the cat, I’m afraid). I just take a few out and put them in hot water for a couple of minutes and then they are fine. I suspect this wouldn’t work in your situation though. You are right, they should surely label them with the date opened. I think in our case it was only cheese and eggs though, not such a problem as meat and fish.

I have also had bad experiences with putting labels on cupboards. They just didn’t want to read them. Indeed, one carer turned out to be illiterate anyway.

I believe that every member of care staff is supposed to go on a Basic Food Hygiene course. Is this happening?
I’d suggest that you kept a diary of what was happening.
I sometimes wonder how these staff keep their own kitchens at home!?

I have had similar problems with my son’s carers.

I like to have clean kitchen cupboards as cleaning them is difficult for me, and since I’m the one that ends up sorting out any mess at my son’s flat, the same rules apply there too. His cupboards aren’t that easy to look inside due to the design of the kitchen, he’s the only one that can reach the furthest top shelf.
All dry goods to be put in glass jars and labelled with expiry date.
All spice and herb jars to be put in a plastic box. It’s easier to get the box down, see what’s inside, and put it back again.
At one time there were FIVE different types of pasta in the cupboard, most of it stored next to empty jars, and a lot of rice in packets, next to the jars!!!

In his fridge, I once found a whole Bag for Life full of out of date fruit, veg, cooked meat.
No apparent consideration about what will be out of date first.
Most worrying of all, no basic understanding of how long you can keep cooked food in a fridge, or what you should do with cooked food once you’ve defrosted it.

So I sympathise completely but have yet to find a solution that works for useless staff.
Happily, my son now has a key worker who knows what she is doing and cooks beautiful food.

Thanks both,

I sympathise with the carers as they must have nightmare trying to remember every home they visit and I wouldn’t want their job. Mum doesn’t really help the situation as she considers what would make life easier for them, so if she gets a new girl, who as she puts it “doesn’t know what she is doing in the kitchen” she will just say “Oh get me anything” so they will naturally go for the first/easiest thing they can find. We told her she should ask for what she wants, and if the person sent can’t do it, then she needs to tell us so we can report back.

Thankfully she is a tough old bird and has probably ignored use by dates all her life, but as she now has no sense of smell, she probably wouldn’t notice if something was a bit “off” and would just eat it to avoid offending anyone. We don’t actually have any proof she is being given out of date food, but seeing how often we stumble across something a bit suspect in her fridge, we do wonder … Occasionally someone will write on a piece of paper and tuck it inside the clingfilm wrapping an open packet/tin so I think they should know how to do it, but either don’t bother or forget.

Very interesting, thank you for information, appreciate

I’m afraid Witch Hazel I don’t feel any sympathy for the Carers. It is basic common sense to check dates on food especially if it’s for someone frail or elderly. There are no excuses.

My friend’s late Dad had dementia and lived in a council flat. he had carers go in every day and they were terrible. She repeatedly asked them to check the contents of his fridge on a regular basis as she lives over 4 hours drive away, worked part time and could only go every 2 weeks. she told them to bin anything out of date but they never did and she would turn up to find rotten food, green milk etc. She complained to the agency and they promised to sort it but never did.

Funnily enough she used to buy tinned foods like custard, rice pudding, tinned milk, curry etc to fill his cupboard for two weeks. One time she filled the cupboard on a friday and he took ill so she had to unexpectedly go back on the Sunday and the cupboard was bare! So they couldn’t clear his fridge but they could pinch all his tinned food. There were no empty tins in his bin either.

Some care workers are not fit to work with vulnerable people.