Stop. Look. Listen. 

 The Coronavirus has changed the landscape of our lives in a matter of two weeks. A week ago I entered the hospital to visit my husband Mike after his elective back surgery. First, I was screened, temperature taken and a series of questions to answer. I was the only visitor he was allowed to have; not one visitor at a time, but the only visitor for his entire stay. He was the last patient in surgery before the ward was being transformed exclusively for Coronavirus patients.

Each day tighter restrictions were put in place. Only one entrance could be used. Visiting hours were reduced and ended at 6 p.m.  It was essential that the visitor remained in the patient’s room at all times until leaving the hospital. The hospital corridors were reminiscent of a ghost town; completely empty.  I barely found my way out.

Several clients called to ask my opinion on how to cope with the jarring restrictions, including ending communal dining, in their senior living communities within those four days. Kind Dining® has always stressed the importance of mealtimes in the community dining room. Now it was not permissible. Yet it is most important to enhance residents’ nutritional health, emotional well-being, and quality of life, no matter the setting. That’s true for all of us.

In this complicated and extraordinary battle with COVID-19, it is even more important for different reasons. I’m here today to share a few important tips to create a new normal about eating in isolation. Here are 5 ways that will consistently make a difference.

  1. Introduce yourself and greet your resident by name.
  2. Be able to describe their meal as you present their plate.
  3. Quickly scan the tray for any missing condiments, and have a backup supply close by.
  4. Exit graciously after sharing a kind word, a community news update, or report on the weather outside.
  5. Make arrangements for yourself or a co-worker to circle back within 3 minutes to Ask: Is there anything else we can get you?

Keeping this routine lowers the feelings of isolation and frustration. It Improves the feelings of solidarity and familiarity and improves the feeling of appreciation for one another. Expect each interaction to be different but keep your response calm and consistent.

Thank you for your service and for all you do.

About Cindy Heilman

Cindy Heilman MS, DTR: Cindy Heilman has over 25 years of experience in enhancing hospitality, and food service standards. She is the CEO of her own company, Higher Standards LLC, and creator of Kind Dining® Training. Her unique background in restaurant ownership, in hospitality and healthcare food service, in working as a Dietetic Technician Registered and Healthcare Specialist at SYSCO Foodservices, led her to the development of her exclusive program that improves relationships and lives of aging residents through the dining experience.

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