Person Centered Dining Begins at Home

What does Pope Francis and Kind Dining® have in common?
Both advocate for relationship building around the family table.

A recent news clip, caught my eye! The Pope is urging those who are glued to their “devices” to put them down during family meals.

Person Centered Dining Begins at Home (RESIDENT CENTERED) 120915He said; “Sitting at the table for family dinner, sharing our meal and the experiences of our day, is a fundamental image of togetherness and solidarity.” He stressed the importance of family dinnertime togetherness from a young age, which he called a “very beautiful virtue.”

Quality family time at dinner is making a comeback as this generation of parents realize the truth in the Pope’s words, there is a real disconnect that happens when families spend less time eating together. And not just eating, but talking, listening, bonding, sharing undivided attention, and nurturing each other.

Few other settings create the perfect environment to learn more about one another, share new experiences, teach and reinforce family values, common courtesies and social manners. These conversations shape how we learn to get along with each other, people outside our immediate family, and how we relate to our larger community and the world beyond it.

Surprisingly, many employees who serve meals in senior living communities have not seen a table set properly, experienced table etiquette first-hand, or learned how to be respectful and engaging with table mates, yet these are the skill set that helps create a gracious and respectful experience our senior diner’s expect and thrive within.

In Kind Dining® classes, we teach employees, many young adults, often in their first job, to improve their job performance, gain confidence in their work, experience healthy separation from their cell phones, and contribute collectively to create such an ambiance. Learning how to stay 100% focused on the persons they are serving and working beside in senior living organizations.

Your staff behavior at mealtimes has the greatest impact on the outcomes of your business, and they are not born knowing how to perform the essential skills that make your dining environments unique community settings that stand out above the competition.

Here are three tips to teach that will help your dining team excel in social graces your residents expect, put aside focusing on themselves, and improve staff solidarity and hospitality with in your organization:

1. Embrace a hospitality mindset
This is more than just a job, I’m serving seniors in their home. The dining room can be a hectic place, but it holds a special place in hearts and minds of residents and guests. This is their family table and as serving staff races back and forth delivering meals, trying to remember several things at once, it is all too easy to forget the most important task at hand: giving kind service.
You have a challenging job. But, as dining staff, you play an important role in your community. Sometimes, giving a few extra seconds of your time and listening intently to residents and co-workers can make a big difference for another person.

2. Put the residents needs first
How would you feel if the residents were talking on their phone when you came to take their order? Or how they feel when they see you sneaking a quick look at a text, or having a long side conversation with a co-worker? Strive to make the meal an experience for each diner rather than to just meet their nutritional needs. Find moments to share happy holiday stories to encourage talking around the table and minimize the “icebergs” in our homes and communities. Make a special effort to engage with newer residents, or those who tend to have trouble starting their own conversations.
A Kind Dining® motto: Conversation is the glue that binds relationships together.

3. Commit to making a difference
Expect more of yourself and your team. Be willing to go the extra mile to make mealtime better. Improving dining service can feel daunting at first, but you don’t have to do everything all at once. Break down your goals into action steps designed to improve one meal at a time, or even to improve the first 15 minutes of a meal. This technique creates a more workable context for everyone. Identify and celebrate achievable goals, no matter how small they seem.

The Pope’s message reminds us of the health and wellness benefits we each experience when we eat with other people, especially with people we care about. Eating with people we care about often helps us savor the moments, and feel happier. We’ll address those specific health benefits in future blogs.

Commit regularly to meet with your staff and residents to establish how to make your dining experience into a kind dining experience

Encourage each other with some sound advice:

“We can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.”
~ Mother Theresa

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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