Mealtime at an assisted living facility can be an eye-opener to families and friends of senior residents. The short story is that menus, supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy food options are improving. Sharing a meal with your loved one at their community can be enjoyable or stressful. Here are a few suggestions for a positive dining experience.
Plan ahead and notify facility staff that you will join your loved one for a meal. Usually staff will make accommodations so you can sit together as a family/private party.
If you choose to bring your own food, bring enough to share in line with her/his dietary restrictions. (Your loved one does not want to watch you eat chicken wings and French fries while he is served meatloaf, peas and carrots.)
Give your loved one time to eat. Meals are not the time for a question and answer session. Aging adults need to chew more slowly and more thoroughly and they need to concentrate on swallowing so that they do not choke. Food is one of a few pleasures. Allow them quiet time enjoy their meal.
Offer to play their favorite music at the table (low volume) from your IPad, IPhone, etc.
Encourage your loved one to drink fluids. Dehydration is an all too common enemy of elderly residents. Nectar thickened liquids are an alternative to regular drinking water for people living with dementia and those with swallowing problems. Speak with their caregivers if you are unsure what liquids may be offered.
Try not to use this time to have a meeting with staff members on duty in the dining room. They are responsible for their residents – that they are served the correct meal, that they are eating, that they are not in distress, that they are not wandering away from the dining room and that residents needing feeding assistance are receiving that support in a timely way.
Familiar faces, food and fellowship are ingredients for a successful visit with your aging loved one.