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Residents can wisely influence facility food decisions

August 9, 2009
by Kathleen Mears
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A few months ago I wrote here that the administrator wanted all residents to eat in the dining rooms. Since a few more residents eat there it is apparent at weekly Food Committee meetings that they are discussing their likes and dislikes.

Residents are now being served buttermilk at lunch and supper, which did not occur previously. Also, the menus for our once a month Resident Choice Meal have greatly changed. The August Resident Choice Meal menu is taco salad with tortilla chips, salsa, and sour cream. Dessert is vanilla ice cream with Oreo cookie crumbles and fudge sauce. That is certainly not the normal fare here.

So it seems two things have happened: Residents have been brought together for meals, and they are requesting menu changes. Bacon cheeseburgers are requested regularly. Dietary also prepares chef salads and other “short order” type foods.

A funny Food Committee moment was a male resident's dislike of the “shot glasses” used to serve juice in the dining room. His idea of shot glasses are 4 ounce glasses. But he is adamant that he no longer wants to see another one.

Food Committee has featured discussions of our favorite foods. A male resident under 40 used to love to cook. But an accident has left him physically unable. At Food Committee he loves to discuss the dishes he used to prepare. His description of his recipe for San Francisco pork chops really had our mouths watering. Just because someone can no longer physically cook does not mean that they no longer have an interest in cooking. In fact, directing dietary to cook their recipes could be quite satisfying.

We residents have suggested that a couple of us be allowed to develop a menu using our own recipes. Then we would like to observe its preparation in dietary. After our suggestion, the dietary manager gave us a strange look with knitted eyebrows and said, "I don't know whether that is legal or whether we can handle the liability issues." If she is interested, I imagine that thought of a resident in the kitchen is probably a scary one.

The dietary manager brought up developing a Resident Cookbook which will be sold. I quickly offered to do typing and set up. A cookbook was done here many years ago with staff and other recipes in it. It sold so quickly that I never got my copy. However, the new one featuring resident recipes could include their picture and a few lines about why they like that particular recipe. It adds a resident perspective, and some additional material that would assist us to make a few dollars to benefit a resident fund.

Last night was a crazy Saturday night in the dining room. Many residents said the chicken sandwiches were not properly cooked and rubbery. Residents were also unhappy because there was no buttermilk. We were short one aide in the dining room, so the remaining one struggled to pass trays and run requests to the kitchen. Some family members came to her aid, which they are not supposed to do. But under the circumstances, if I were a family member, I would have done the same thing.

Putting residents together for meals allows them to organize their ideas on food. It has shown them that several voices together are much louder and lately that louder voice is being heard.

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Kathleen Mears

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