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Eating in the Dining Room

June 22, 2009
by Kathleen Mears
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Right now there is a great push to get all residents here to eat in the dining rooms. When I first came here, there was a dining room for the "feeds" and a dining room for those who could feed themselves.

At first I ate in the “feed” dining room and I did not like the experience very much. We went into the dining room 45 minutes before meal time. The doors were closed and we were not supposed to leave. Otherwise, residents with dementia would have left and not returned without assistance. I would have been allowed to leave. But it never occurred to me to ask.

For a while I was able to feed myself most of the time. But it concerned me that the dining rooms were an either/or proposition. I wondered what happened if a resident could only eat half of a meal and needed assistance with the rest of it. No one could answer my question sufficiently.

In time, it became more difficult for me to feed myself and I became the problem I was concerned about. I was assisted with the part of my meal that I could not negotiate. I had many discussions with nurses and aides who understood my situation. But they acknowledged that there was not much wiggle room in the rules. Soon after that I opted to eat in my room so I would not have to go back to the "feed” dining room again.

I understand why administration wants residents to eat in the dining room. They want us to get out of their rooms especially at meal times. That way the food can be warmer and menu substitutions can be made easily. There is also concern that residents eating in their rooms alone may choke. Also, residents who eat in their rooms and need to be "fed" tie up an aide who has many other things to do.

But I wonder if the general population (those who are reading this posting) would like to dine in a cafeteria-like setting at every meal for the rest of their lives? I am sure some of you might, but others might relish a meal in solitude. Some residents prefer to lie down, get their feet up, and enjoy television during their evening meal. I know experts do not consider this to be a healthy way to dine, but since this is our home, we should be able to relax and kick back.

Some residents are now eating in the dining room for the first time, but they are complaining about it. I know that it is difficult to please everyone in a communal setting. Most men are fairly agreeable about eating in the dining room. It is the women who have more opinions. Personally, I think smaller, private dining rooms that would accommodate guests would be a great addition.

But ultimately, I think residents should decide where they want to eat their meals. It is their right.

Kathleen Mears


Kathleen Mears is a long-time blogger who has been a nursing home resident for 21 years. She is...



I agree with you kathy, residents should be able to eat with whom they want as well as where they want to eat. I like to eat in my room, relaxing watching t.v. In the dining room you only have such a length of time to eat. Some residents like to enjoy their meal and take their time to really taste the food, not to engulge it down and say "what was it I had for dinner?" You should not have to gulge your food down to provide us aides the time we need to get things done. I say allow whatever is necessary to help our residents. It's their home they pay $5000.00 or more to live their let freedom ring and be heard.


You raise the issue of eating and food - so important to all of us. I am aware that a social work student of mine told me recently at the home where she worked - a new resident came in and found an old friend lived there as well, they asked if they could sit together but where told they could not! While doing my research into nursing homes in Australia, one resident asked the management if she could drink wine with dinner, she was told no, she would have to do that in her room - as it may upset the other residents, especially those with dementia. As you rightly point out Kathleen, imagine not being able to have a glass of wine with dinner for the REST OF YOUR LIFE! Keep up the good work - bringing residents voices to the world! Cheers Ralph

Kathleen -

I couldn't agree more. Personal choice doesn't get any more personal than with how we eat! I'm sure my doctors wouldn't approve of my first choice when not eating with my family - it's on my bed with a lap tray, watching my favorite show. Keep asking your good questions - make us think about how we interact with you!

Cynthia Gartman
President & COO - Country Place Living, LLC

I have worked in nursing homes for many years and the dining room situation is very troubling for me. I agree that this is the residents' home. They should have a choice. Another thing that has bothered me is that often there is assigned seating. I would not like to be told where to eat and who to sit with if it were me. I agree that smaller more homelike dining rooms would be the ideal situation. Since more and more facilities are trying to improve their appeal, this is most definitely something that they should look at, as well as the furnishings in the dining rooms. No one likes to eat at institutional type tables for ever. Also, there should be separate areas for families to come in and dine with residents if they would like. Please keep talking to those in charge.

Allison Munn, RN, MSN

It's a lovely thought but all it will take is for one resident who ate alone to choke and die. The facility will get a DPH tag and sued and who knows what else. We are NOT hotels or spas. It might be your home but we are still health care facilities with more regulations than the nuclear power industry.