Eating in the Dining Room

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.

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