Mealtime assistance

I have lived in two nursing homes that call one of the dining room the "feed room." I always thought that name was undignified. Recently, I read in an article that some nursing homes call this space the "assisted" dining room. I like that name better.

At my previous nursing home, I sat at a semicircular table in the "assisted" dining room while the aides fed us and rolled around on small stools. It was a mini production line: bite, bite, bite and then drink, drink, drink. And so meal time went.

One aide could easily feed three residents without causing them any distress. I was continually amazed that she could do it and residents never pushed her away. She did not say much, but she insinuated herself into their space, offered them food and was persistent. They became comfortable with her and she usually got them to eat all their food.

Aides were to encourage residents they fed to eat at least 75 percent of their tray. Some of the other aides scolded residents when they would not eat. However, scolding seldom resulted in residents eating more. Some of the Greatest Generation ladies just wanted to be reed thin and refused food. Others had dementia and could not eat much at one time.

It was depressing for me to eat in the "assisted" dining room. Most of the residents were not alert and some hardly spoke. When the other residents were offered food, they usually turned their heads like they feared being burned by too hot food. Many times, I sat there hungry— smelling the aromas and wanting to eat—but was required to wait while more nutritionally challenged residents were fed.

My stomach did loop the loops watching the effort the aides put into feeding. Some residents strongly refused to eat, and watching that made me sad. After a while, I told the director of nursing that dining in the "assisted" room made me anxious and asked if could eat in my room. Thankfully, I was allowed.

When I first came here, a female resident with a traumatic brain injury had trouble focusing on eating. She was given one food at a time to prevent confusion. The aides loudly cajoled and corrected her while she ate. Watching her try to eat with the sights and sounds around her made it seem she was trying to eat in the middle of a tennis court during Wimbledon. She eventually moved to a facility closer to her family.

A couple of months ago, the table where I sit was moved from the main dining room to the "assisted" room. That way, those who needed queuing or fed were near more aides who could access them.

I wonder if residents who have to be continually coaxed to eat ever feel like they are being tormented. I also wonder if they are suffering when aides constantly call their name to get them to eat.

Mealtimes make me feel like more of a burden, and I know some other residents probably feel the same. In my case, before every meal, I give myself permission to allow an aide to feed me.

Topics: Articles , Nutrition