I would LOVE, love to see the Food Network or somebody take on assisted living or nursing home kitchen food makeover. Yes, I can imagine Gordon Ramsay at my grandmother’s assisted living dining room being pleasant and nice to the residents, “Thank you Darling.” Then going to the kitchen and lowering the F*%& *$ boom.
We have made-over all aspects of food and stages of life: toddlers, school age, teens, foodie hipsters, lunch rooms, restaurants, and home kitchens. But what about seniors who are at the mercy of a business that happens to be their home to serve them food? Why are these precious souls who have experienced and done so much relegated to a bad dining experience, food, and service?
Eating with my grandmother at her assisted living community is a treat in that I get to spend time sitting with my 99 year-old grandmother. The food, the service, the atmosphere, is not a treat. My grandmother’s table: Hilda, Gene, Fern, my grandmother, and me as guest. They are all in their 90s and know in no uncertain terms, the food and service and the chef—suck. (My word of course.) They have like the rest of the community come to a somewhat quiet acceptance. Oh, there are grumblings, so tomorrow the cold rolls will be warmer.
I can’t believe people who work with the elderly are allowed to run it so inefficiently and without any focus on their paying customers. Complaints are met with a list of excuses: new chef for the fifth time, can’t keep help, people doing multiple jobs at once, this is how the management over the management runs things, budget…blah, blah. And the access to anyone other than onsite management is nicely hidden with out of state numbers and no one person to contact or email about the company’s policies.
Why for the love of God can’t they have some respect and pride in how they treat and serve this community? Having a hostess going around, making small talk, and serve drinks even. Make the time spent personal and not so assembly line. But no—residents gather and sit at tables waiting and some interaction with others at tables. My husband and I have on many occasion brought coffee to those waiting.
The staff isn’t allowed to even clock in until 12:30. So none of the servers acknowledge any of the residents sitting at the tables. After 12:30, the assembly line servers come out for drinks and salads. One other person goes around with a small basket serving rolls. They go down the line, fill drinks with little conversation because they are also serving salads, and by the time they finish the room and rows, cups are empty, but no one can go back for refills because NOW they now have to go table by table take orders. Then bring table by table the plates. Food isn’t even being served until after 12:30! My last visit, the last of the tables weren’t served their food until 1:30. But wait, dessert and coffee are to come and dinner will be at 5:00!
When my grandmother first came to live her assisted living apartment, the food and service was so much better. But now, one good day of good food is something to brag about. My grandmother was a women who loved to go out and eat-still does if she feels up for it. She used to like to invite people to stay and eat with her, but now, She says, “Well, you know I can’t promise how good it will be or when, but you are welcome to stay.” This is what she and all the residents have to deal with every day for 3 meals. Most are like my grandmother in that picking up and moving isn’t something they want to do at this point in their lives nor can many afford to.
It is personal not only because it is my grandmother, but many of the residents don’t have any advocates that live in the state. I look around, and I see many of the people that I knew when I managed a retirement recreation facility down the road. They don’t remember me now, but I remember them. In 2011, these men and women were coming and swimming, working out, walking, shooting pool, planning to go places, and now unable to care for themselves, are here and experiencing this disaster called dining.
I know there are much more expensive places that this probably isn’t an issue, but why must dignity cost so much for many who have given so much?! It shouldn’t. It just shouldn’t. God willing, we are all going to grow old, and I hope and pray that the ageism that pervades our society will reverse.