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Different home, different dining

October 18, 2010
by Kathleen Mears
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Dining is different at this 50-bed Northwestern Ohio facility where I am. Residents who feed themselves eat in a large, well-lit dining room. The sunny activities room serves as a “feed” dining room, or for those who need assistance with eating.

Since I need to be fed, I am required to go to the feed dining room. The residents who dine there usually have the most difficulty eating. They also have cognitive impairments that cause their behavior to be erratic. Because of this I do not relish eating there. But I do go because it is the rule.

A few residents have to be fed their whole one meal. Others can feed themselves with minimal assistance. More aides are there to assist them and observe them during and after meals because of their risk of choking.

The feed dining room residents get their meals first. Their trays are hand-carried to them from the kitchen window. Some feed residents get agitated if their meal does not arrive quickly enough. But when they get it they are usually satisfied.

In the three weeks I have been here, I have seen several food incidents in this dining room. Residents have thrown food, utensils, and sometimes full trays. These residents do not necessarily exhibit a certain behavior before they throw something. They can be completely calm and all of a sudden utensils or foods fly. Other times their behavior is calm and relatively quiet.

The quietest meals in the feed dining room occurred this week when nurse aide trainees were doing their clinicals. With the trainees interacting with the feed residents there was little time for them to act up.

Most meals are better here than at my previous facility and the food comes from the same company. Recipes are richer, which makes the food softer and easier to eat. Trays come straight from the kitchen. They are not put into a food cart where they can dry out.

The meals are served on divided, rectangular, plastic trays. The trays are not covered unless they are hand-delivered to a resident who is able to feed himself/herself.

If a resident misses a meal, they do not get one later. The resident gets a protein shake as a meal replacement. The shakes are 4 ounces and have 240 calories. I have had one in each flavor and they taste pretty good and are quite filling. In addition to the shake, snacks are served two hours after meals.

Staying within my diet is a bit more difficult here. There are fewer food substitutes and menu items, but several of them are quite different from those offered at my previous facility, and are quite tasty as well. Since the foods have a good taste it is harder to avoid eating them.

There is a fenced patio area beside the feed dining room. On nice days a couple of residents who feed themselves are allowed to eat outside. Residents in the feed dining room can see the residents outside eating. I feel a bit sad when those who need to be fed are told they cannot eat outside.

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Comments

I am one who requires minimal assistance to eat. When residing in an Assisted Living Facility I also ate in a separate, smaller dining room. Which I actually preferred because the bigger (much bigger) dining room was just too noisy.

My small dining area only consisted of about 12 people and it was always very quiet. But I was not in a facility with people who had behavior problems.

What disturbs me about your situation is "the rules." It is not right that, because you need to be fed, you do not have the same right to eat outside on occasion.

Thank you for sharing your experience and letting us know your institutionalized "rules."

Lori

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...