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When residents start food fights

January 30, 2012
by Kathleen Mears
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A few weeks ago, a 20-something severely disabled resident, who I will call John, returned to this nursing home. When he lived here before, it was common for him to become agitated, particularly at meal times.

On his first day back, he seemed alert and fed himself. Perhaps he had changed.

Unfortunately, after several days his demeanor turned. He was more sedated, it was harder for him to feed himself and the aides had to assist him.

John is tall and strong and when he is upset he can push himself away from the table. He can also throw himself out of his wheelchair. Though he is capable of saying a few words, they are laborious, so he may act out physically to express himself.

One day John was sitting next to me at lunch. He was out of sorts and the aides were watching him, as was I.

I quietly wondered if he did not like the lunch menu because he had not touched his double portions of puréed food. Even though we were watching, John was able to get his left hand under his tray, flip it over the feed table and onto the floor. Puréed food flew through the air, landing on the pants and shoes of a male resident sitting across from him.

It also landed in my hair. And down my right side.

The aides grabbed wipes to clean me up, but after lunch they had to change my clothes.

Since John has returned, other residents in the dining room have begun to throw food more frequently. On three consecutive days, two different residents threw food on me. Some residents who feed themselves have moved to a different table. But because I need to be fed, I do not have that option. I was moved across the table from John but am still well within his reach.

The aides are now watching John intensely and this past week was a bit calmer. But keeping John stable without one-on-one care from an aide will be difficult.

In my almost 16 years living in nursing homes, I have never had a resident throw food on me. I have to say that it is a messy and uncomfortable experience. I hope the staff can work out a way to keep the residents peaceful at meal times.

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Comments

Dear Kathleen,
While I'm sure the food throwing is a total mess - you must admit, it is adding a little excitement to the day. At meal times now you are probably apprehensive, anticipating, waiting for John's tantrum. It even gave you something to write about. I haven't been in a good food fight since I was a teenager. And let me ask you, has it occured to you to throw something back?

Thanks for your blog. Keep writing.

Sincerely,
Lila

While the food fight could seem funny to an outsider, it was not to me. First of all, as a quadriplegic I am unable to throw food and I would not do that anyway. My upbringing would simply not allow it.

I guess it might be strange to some that I have never been in a food fight.

I guess what I think about most when there is food flying is that others can be hurt. Even though there is no glassware to be broken, liquids on the floor can be quite dangerous and many of our residents can move around normally. We have a mix of differently abled residents.

I do have be more cautious at meals since I know that something could come flying my way. It does keep me more alert and more ready to move my power chair quickly to avoid wearing someone's breakfast or lunch.

Thanks for your comment.

Dear Kathleen,

My name is Ulla Kriebernegg, I am from Austria and just discovered your blogs during my stay in Arizona. I love reading them! You are a good writer!
I am a researcher based at Graz University, and I am currently writing a book on age and aging in long term care facilites - not real ones, but those represented in US and Canadian literature. Still, experiences such as yours are very important for my research. If I may, I would like to quote you from time to time. Do you think that would be ok for you?

Would you mind sending me your email address? There is none in the profile.

I look forward to hearing from you.
All the best
Ulla
ulla.kriebernegg@uni-graz.at

Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

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