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?