24 Jul 2017

The beloved Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz perhaps sums things up best: “There’s no place like home”. For those living in long-term care this statement is often expressed with heartfelt sincerity, especially in environments that do not look, feel or smell like home. We all have the need to feel we belong, to feel connected to others, to have things to do and to enjoy the pleasures of simple things like the smells, foods and feelings of home. Unfortunately, residents don’t have the luxury of clicking their heels and returning home. If home is where the heart is we must consider creating environments that look, feel and smell like home. The dining experience is an important place to start. This blog post is the first of a series on mealtimes, and looks at the pace of the dining experience.

Dr. Maria Montessori’s vision of the prepared environment provides a perfect framework for beginning the discussion about creating a place that addresses the needs of our dementia care residents while also setting them up for successful outcomes. She created learning environments according to their needs, interests and abilities, fostering real self-esteem. These environments help children feel that they belong, providing their with opportunities to make contributions to their community and set them up for success so they could be as independent as possible. Each of these components should be embraced, as we create positive dining experiences in long-term care.

“Grab and Go” or “Dine with Dignity?”
When you think about an evening with friends and family do you think about the “dine and dash” type of dining or the “sit, relax, chat and enjoy” experience? When you eat with family at home, what do you prefer? Do you like to “grab and go” or do you expect the family to sit and eat the meal that someone so lovingly prepared? How do you define a “good” dining experience? If you were living in long-term care, what would you want and expect? What would make a “great” day for you? What do older adults expect? Many older adults in our society expected families to sit and eat together. The “dine and dash” or “grab and go” was not really considered to be the pleasurable, or routine, norm for daily dinners. In long-term care people eat together three times a day. Don’t you think the “sit, relax, chat and enjoy” is the experience they deserve each day?