As I went to my usual table in the dining room, I saw a female resident playing cards with two family members. Another resident who eats at that table was sitting in a chair just outside of the group. Her place had been usurped, and I could tell she felt like the proverbial fifth wheel. She needed to relocate, but she could not change her seating without permission.
The staff noticed that the family visit situation upset the usual seating plan. The uncomfortable female resident and a male resident were relocated to other tables. When the family card game did not break up, I realized that the group was staying for lunch.
There is no other place in the building (other than a resident’s room) where family can visit. The TV room is vacant during meals, but there are no tables on which to play cards or share a meal.
As I watched all of this activity, I noticed the dining room became very quiet. During the noon meal, residents are talking and, often, complaining. At times, the TV is on and the staff members talk loudly and occasionally laugh. On this particular day, however, the dining room was the epitome of decorum.
As the meal progressed, the room stayed quiet. Even the staff members did not say much, and if they did it was in hushed tones. It was uplifting to realize that the other residents did not want to disturb the resident’s family lunch. All residents know the importance of visitors, whether or not they have them. This is the first time I have seen family members eat with their loved one in the dining room at this facility.
At a previous facility, a single family member frequently ate with his mother. When the staff felt that other residents’ meals were disrupted by it, however, the privilege ended. It is a delicate balance trying to ensure the rights of residents with family visitors without impinging on residents who get few or no visitors. On this day, this family’s lunch visit was pleasant because of the cooperation of the staff and the residents.