Would your residents agree with the words you use to promote your meal service?
Does your promotional material reflect what the residents feel they experience?
When I undertake a project to improve the quality of the meal service in a facility, I sit and eat and immerse with the residents over a week. This brings out true conversation and feelings about the facility culture, attitude of management and staff, daily frustrations, satisfaction, appreciation, system breakdowns, and evidence of “murdering the meal”.
Immersing with residents in the meal time over a longer duration shifts them beyond the initial “yes dear, everything is lovely here”.
While I probably harp on about it, I still reiterate that the dining experience in aged care begins with getting the basics right on a continual and consistent basis. I don’t mean the fancy hotel service, maître d’, customised menu card, matching linen. I mean ticking the box on regularly getting a delicious, hot tasty meal to residents just the way they imagine having it at their home.
“The greatest gift that extraordinarily successful people have over the average person is their ability to get themselves to take action.” – Tony Robbins
Where do you start?
One highly successful and empowering approach is to create systems of continuous improvement for the meal service rather than a goal of a “hotel-style” dining experience.
As Scott Adams, the creator of “Dilbert” explains,
“Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous pre-success failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their system. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction.” From Adams book: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.
3 Systems Approach Ways to Improve the Dining Experience
- Teach your staff to look with fresh eyes – As they go about their work, teach staff to view what they do through the resident’s eyes. Is the task adding value to the resident? Is it supporting the resident to enjoy their meal, be independent, feel at home, maintain their dignity, etc?
- Empower staff to take action – driven by a culture of encouragement, staff with a “can do” attitude look for ways to support their residents and add quality to their day.
- Support staff when they make mistakes – staff may not always get it right. Guide and mentor staff around how they can manage tasks and situations better. Encourage them to keep applying the system of continual improvement for their residents. Both you and they will feel like they are still succeeding.
6 Actions Your Staff Can Take Today
- Have a meal service hackathon and brainstorm ideas on how to reduce the time from cooking to serving the meal.
- Explore in depth why a resident has not eaten their meal. Are they having difficulty eating, or not enjoying an aspect of the meal?
- Describe the meal to residents in colourful, descriptive language as it is being placed in front of them.
- Chat to the residents, discuss the meal, share a joke, engage in meaningful conversation.
- Management regularly do a casual walk-slow through the dining rooms, and really listen to what residents are saying to them.
- Allow residents to sit and converse freely after their last mouthful.