Thursday, June 28, 2012

Assisted Living Food: Suddenly Your Aging Parent Hates It!

Assisted living cuisine can turn sour in the blink of an eye. One day, your aging parent will give the assisted living dietary staff accolades for their well prepared meals served in a timely manner.  But suddenly, the story changes. You hear mantras that remind you of  Goldilocks: "It's too hot."  "It's too cold." But rarely, "It's just right."

Your aging parent may complain about things like: Residents wait too long to be served.  The kitchen runs out of resident favorites.  Eggs aren't cooked to her liking.

So what do you do? Here are some ideas I've seen adult children use over the years in addressing food issues in their parent's assisted living communities.

1. Give the situation some time to resolve. Cooks at assisted living communities quit.  So do servers.  When that happens, it's easy for everyone to go into a frenzy, at least temporarily. If staff, families and residents can sit tight during the hiring process, things may work out.

2.  Eat in the dining room with your parent more often.  Note positives as well as negatives. Use the comment cards located in most dining rooms to jot down suggestions for improvement. Your comments will carry at least as much--if not more--weight than those of your parents.

3.  If your parent is competent, encourage him or her to voice concerns, either in writing or through the Resident Council.  At most assisted living communities, management wants to create a pleasant dining experience for residents. During difficult transitions, positive ideas can be born to make meals more pleasurable.

4.  Realize why this is such a huge issue for your parent. Your parent can't just drive down the road to a Chinese restaurant.  He can't fix a gourmet meal in his kitchenette. He can't bake a chocolate cake.  So when there's a slip in service, or food quantity or quality in the assisted living dining room, your parent's world is rocked.  Things will likely settle down, given time and patience.  If they don't, discuss the other positive qualities of the community with your parent.  And think twice before moving him somewhere else. Remember the old saying, "The grass is always greener...?"  Another version is, "The food is always better somewhere else?"  Not necessarily so.

Have you and your parent experienced a disappointment in food service in his or her assisted living?  How have you handled it?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Eldercare Dilemma: Mom's Favorite Caregiver Just Quit!

Your elderly parent is fit to be tied. And you're not doing well, either.  Why? Her favorite caregiver quit. Gone is the one who knows Mom loves pink, hates broccoli, and has to be bribed to take a bath. In her place is a stranger.

How do you handle this?  Mike Davis, owner of Always Best Care-Eastside, a home-care agency serving Seattle and East King County, has a definite opinion.  "Caregiver turnover is high, and there's not much we can do when a caregiver quits.  But we can do our best both to feel and mitigate the pain of those involved."

He advocates a "no strangers" policy.  It works like this: If Carol quits as a caregiver for your mom, she or another staff member that you and your mom know will introduce Barb, the new caregiver.  The person who introduces Barb will work with her for a good part of a shift, to teach Barb the ins and outs of your mom's care needs and preferences.

At Always Best Care-Eastside, the agency pays both caregivers during the training period.  The client pays for only one.

I like the "no stranger" concept. If we or others can take the time and care to introduce our parents to new people in their lives, everyone wins.

Can you think of other situations in which you can implement the "no stranger" concept with your elderly parent? 

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