Maintain dignity in dining

Twenty-five years ago, it was common practice to feed residents in nursing homes by injecting them with pureed food by mouth via a giant syringe. Thankfully, as a society we have backed off the institutionalization of our elders.

In the same way we no longer refer to psychiatric hospitals as “lunatic asylums,” or label the people inside them as “insane,” we no longer use archaic and insensitive terms for seniors or the places they live.

Wave after wave of reform, built upon greater understanding and education, has changed the culture of modern senior living communities. So I was taken aback several weeks ago when I was visiting a community and heard the term “feeders” used to describe dining residents by a nursing intern.

I was stunned by the use of that term in 2011. And I couldn’t imagine how a resident would react to being referred to as a “feeder,” as if that person was lining up in a barn to eat hay, like a cow. I think it goes without saying that terms such as “feeder” must be rooted out. That language is an echo to an earlier time, an era that has thankfully faded into the past.

It is important that providers and nurses stay current, remain up-to-date on culture change in nursing homes, and work proactively for progress. Incidentally, a community could be cited for using a term like “feeder” today. It’s a dignity issue and not a small one.

About Cindy Heilman

Cindy is the founder and owner of Kind Dining®, which she began in 2006. She’s traveled across the country and Canada working with and training senior living communities that want to create an exceptional dining experience for their residents and staff. In addition, she certifies select professionals in her Kind Dining® philosophy and provides tools, now in an eLearning format, that make learning stick and help people put insights into action. As a result of her work, clients often share their staff has a new sense of purpose, get along better and keep their focus and energy on what matters most. In fact, she wrote a book, Hospitality for Boomers on how to attract residents and keep good team members. In her free time, she enjoys walking Oregon trails and cheering on her favorite soccer teams, the Portland Thorns and Timbers.

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