Do I look like I need a sippee cup?

Sippee cup not part of the dining experience in aged careThis is how my meal came to me recently while sharing a meal in a nursing home.

While the meal was dished up nicely, I received the items still on the tray and the soup and drink in a sippee cup. In this dining room, all meals are trayed, whether residents are in the dining room or not. They therefore receive their complete meal at once.

The meal service was a series of tasks. The catering staff dished up according to the dietary profile, and the care staff delivered the food to the resident. While I admire the thoughtfulness of the catering staff in understanding their residents, it is rare that the dietary profile list is completely up to date. That is not a problem – until there is a problem and the consequences can be severe. I dont blame the staff. Usually they work from paper-based systems with no IT enabling software or technology in site. Each person seems to have their own system to manage the complexities of the meal.

When I undertake a meal service and dining experience review at an aged care facility, I spend time in the dining room, eating with the residents. This is when the secrets and whispering happens. “This one” couldnt be more helpful. You have to catch “that one” on a good day for them to crack a smile.

I love time with the residents. Hearing their history and circumstances, their loves and dreams. I have been amazed at their careers and surprised at their sauciness. Have I ever had some great laughs!

While they may grumble occasionally, most residents are pretty forgiving of the food that gets served and staff undertaking the task. They explain the meal away that staff are very busy, or they have a low budget, or just plain they do the best they can.

When a negative comment is made, I ask the resident if they would like me to make a complaint about it. Their usual response is – “Oh no, I just wanted to express my views. Its not really a complaint”. By far the most common complaint is they dont see management enough to voice their feelings on the day.

Many facilities offer resident food meetings quarterly or so. If this is their only outlet, residents save all their daily niggles up for this occasion and have a good old vent. It becomes a more formal process and is often documented. Management are taken aback, and often front line staff bear the brunt of the consequences.

Residents themselves have said they would rather get things off their chest at the time. Sometimes this is just when the accreditation agency is walking by and stops for a chat with your most vocal complainant.

When is the last time you sat in the dining room with your residents? What happened?

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