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Push back on meal time rules

January 18, 2016
by Kathleen Mears
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In all the years I have lived in nursing homes meals have always been scheduled the same way. Breakfast is at 8, lunch at noon, and dinner at 5.

Since this is a behavior facility, residents are required to go to the dining room for meals. If a resident arrives in the dining room last, while trays are still being passed, that resident will be served his/her tray last. That has happened to me unintentionally a couple of times.

If a resident comes to the dining room after all trays are passed and the food service window is closed, that resident can be denied a meal tray. Some residents have tried to fight being refused a tray for being late. Many times the time it takes to pass trays varies depending on the cook, dietary aide and the available staff to pass trays. Some days trays were passed by 8:15 and a resident arriving after that could be refused a tray.

In the past couple of months a couple of residents have gone to the nurse manager regarding the "too late to get a tray" rule. She said if a resident arrives in the dining room 30 minutes after the scheduled meal time, he/she can get a tray. That was a resident victory of sorts.

A couple of weeks ago an incident occurred that challenged mealtimes a bit more. A resident I will call Jay has been here a couple of months. He does not always eat his meal, but he does like his coffee. He was usually on time for meals. But, now that he has been here for several weeks, he is an occasional late comer.

One morning Jay walked in the dining room and announced it was 8:30 a.m. and went to his assigned seat. From there he could see the dietary manager rinsing trays through the other kitchen window. Jay told her he could still get a breakfast tray per his discussion with the nurse manager. The dietary manager told him it was 8:31 and too late to get a tray. Jay reiterated that he walked into the dining room at 8:30 and was therefore due a tray. Then he said it again, quite loudly.

Since I was finished with breakfast, I decided to leave the dining room. I hate to see residents lose battles with the nursing home staff for not following the rules. I also felt Jay was upset and I did not really want to see him lose his cool.

As a rode through the lobby one of the staff said Jay was allowed to get a tray. I understand there have to be rules. But, I felt 8:31 was close enough to 8:30 to allow Jay a tray. Although, he might want to consider that the dietary manager could decide someday there is no room for any additional leeway.



Although I understand the staff of a busy nursing home needs to run with efficiency and rules, the primary goal should be to serve the residents who pay to live there. It is, after all, their home and not a place of employment to the residents. In our own homes, we often have a set meal time that may fluctuate depending upon the day's events or the mood of the family members. Community meal time is important for social reasons. But in my home, I would not deny an adult his dinner, even if he came late. Food should always be set aside for those who did not attend during dining hours, or some type of meal should be made available to them. The residents are not prisoners nor disobedient children and should not be treated as anything less than fellow adults. I agree with Kathleen that Jay should have been provided with a meal.

The event in this blog actually happened.
It would be nice to avoid rules and put others on their honor. But, in society that will not work and it does not In nursing homes. Some individuals would take advantage.
Rules are to ensure that everyone's rights are protected.

Actually according to nursing home regulations Nursing homes must provide each resident a nourishing, palatable, well–balanced diet that meets daily nutritional and special dietary needs.

Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...