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.