Food, Love, and the Dining Experience
As we age, our sense of taste diminishes. While our bodies no longer call out for food, it remains vital to our health. Without proper nourishment, we more susceptible to prolonged bouts of sickness. Food is as much about fellowship as it is about nutrition. At Elite Care, we present meals in a traditional family way, around a big table with everyone participating. Sitting at a big family table ignites our long-term memory, letting everyone actively participate regardless of physical abilities or cognitive level.
Mealtime and the feeling of the kitchen are a part of our long-term memory, so deep-seated that it continues long into dementia. In our Oatfield Estates and Fanno Creek communities, kitchen is the heart of the home, where our house communities are reunited 3 times a day. As we age our circadian rhythms need to be reinforced more frequently. Not resetting our internal clocks causes sundowner’s disease to become much more of a problem. We are able to reset the circadian rhythm at each meal with a meaningful and memorable ritual. The chef becomes the de facto mother of the house and helps ground the resident with the family. We all know that food taste better when it is cooked with love. Our chefs are central to the home and cook with love. They know each of the resident’s personal preferences, just like a mother would know what each of her kids like.
It is a joy to experience the residents and the chef bonding together. By having a small, family-style kitchen with a chef who loves and cares for each of the residents, the kitchen becomes the center of the home, just like it was before they moved out of their own home. This life continuity helps make the kitchen a very safe and nurturing place where the resident is able to experience vulnerability. This vulnerability fosters autonomy and self-efficacy that is so important to the resident’s health. If we lose the loving and nurturing environment of the kitchen, then eating goes from a fun life event that has history and meaning to a chore. The diminished appetite and desire for food that happens as we age then becomes a major concern and getting the elders to eat enough becomes a real challenge. When mom (in the form of our loving, caring personal chefs) cooks a meal, there is an implied social obligation to eat the food and enjoy it. Participating as part of an extended family changes the dynamics of eating and nourishment.
Isolation is one of the biggest challenges of the elderly. Isolation leads to stress, diminished self-efficacy and loss of participation. When the kitchen regains the traditional role of the home and offers a safe and inviting place to participate in group activities the chance of isolation dramatically diminishes. With only 12 residents we quickly know when somebody is not participating in the meal and can explore why they are not participating and render love and care to that resident.
The kitchen has always been a multi-generational experience with family and friends participating often. At Elite Care we have worked hard to develop a multigenerational kitchen and dining experience that reminds and fosters the good feeling they remember from eating in the past. We do not charge our team members or family members for meals as long as they participate in the dinning ritual. This allows for both a multigenerational feeling and family and friends are at many of the meals. When family members show up it is our expectation they eat family style and not only help their loved one but also communicate and help other residents that they are sitting by. This means that each family member is leveraged to bring as much joy and familiarity to each meal. We average 3 family members per day participating in the dinning ritual. This is a quite a high turnout for a house of only 12 residents and we are quite proud of the environment that it provides.
At Elite Care Fanno Creek and Oatfield Estates we cook from scratch, avoiding processed foods that have the nourishment cooked out of them. We strive for a balanced diet using little salt and sugar while focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Cook from scratch
- Low sugar
- Low fat
- Fellowship lunch and dinner
- Fresh fruits & vegetables
- Local ingredients when possible
- Cooked to order breakfast
“There are surprisingly few patterns of events in any one person’s way of life, perhaps no more than a dozen. If these few patterns are good for me, I can live well. If they are bad for me, I can’t.”
Our meals become events that give our life meaning and happiness.
We all judge the success of our lives by the patterns of events that unfold each day. The better and more consistent the event the better the chances that it will add to the quality of our life. Elite Care strives to create opportunities for events that give our residents fellowship, meaning, and purpose. A group of events that we can look back on and reflect as a good day. In order to follow the natural rhythms of the body we break our day into familiar patterns. These patterns become habits anchored by the meals. After breakfast, the morning is about the body: exercise and movement. Following lunch, the afternoon is about the mind. Our evenings after dinner are about the soul. By being simple consistent and routine these events become rituals that flow and reinforce our self worth and help us to minimize our bad days.
Meals at Elite Care also incorporate the idea of a Town Crier. In Old New England, the Town Crier was a person who would summarize the events of the day. Town Criers eventually were replaced by newspapers and more modern forms of news. The Town Crier for our residents is an opportunity, at each meal, to frame the activities of yesterday and today in a positive light. A reset which allows everyone to get excited about the past and the future. We only remember the last memory of the event not the actual event. If we promote what has happened and what is going to happen in the best possible light, we will remember the positives of the event and be happier about our life and circumstances.