Written by Jaimee Green
At the entrance of the dining room of Faith Lutheran Home, residents are met by a large, colorful handwritten menu board reading, ‘today’s specials.’ Today, they are oatmeal with raisins or a breakfast biscuit and eggs.
Yet, one resident sips freshly brewed coffee while enjoying toast and pancakes and another eats eggs and hash browns. Still another has decided to indulge in strips of bacon and a golden, toasted waffle.
During the dining experience at Faith Lutheran Home, it’s all about choices.
“For the administration and staff, honoring choices is critical to raising the bar for quality long-term care. It’s also qualified them for a Mountain-Pacific Health Foundation Commitment to Quality Certificate, which was presented in an awards ceremony during the September session of the Montana Hospital Associations’ annual convention and trade show in Billings.
Providing more choices at mealtime has done more for the residents than just improve their dining experiences; it’s enhanced their quality of life and their nutritional status. This award is significant because it represents the dedication the staff has toward constantly moving forward and finding ways of improving our facility. We strive to create an environment where residents not only have choices but are satisfied with the choices they have,” said JoAnn Hibl, director of nurses.
The dining improvements project began two years ago as a means of increasing the weights of residents. One good idea led to another and eventually, the project successfully created an environment modeled after a restaurant styled dining experience rather than a skilled nursing facility.
“Following a survey we gave the residents, it became clear they wanted the opportunity to eat when they wanted. So, while we still have meals served at designated times, residents now can order off the menu whatever they want and can choose to eat at a different time,” Hibl said.
Sharon Hoffman, director of food services, implemented a weekly Chef’s Choice night to help accommodate residents. After the cook finds out what the residents are interested in eating, they create meals that are a bit more exotic than what might be served on a typical evening. One night may consist of Chinese food or steak and potatoes.
One resident mentioned they wanted to be able to eat deep-fat fried foods so the Faith Lutheran Home Foundation helped pay for a fryer to be purchased. “It’s really kind of funny. We don’t advertise these fried food choices but the residents know they are available and will request them. We try to limit them because they aren’t a healthy choice, but once in a while they sure do think they are a treat,” Hibl laughed.
Families who visit their loved ones benefit from the changes as well. When visiting, family can sit in the dining room and order whatever they want and visiting spouses can enjoy their meal for free. “Having a resident’s husband or wife dine with them is so beneficial to the residents because most often, it creates an environment where the resident is likely to eat more,” Hibl said.
Faith Lutheran Home is one of three skilled nursing facilities to be honored with the award in Montana.
To be eligible for the award, nursing homes were required to be licensed in good standing with the state survey agency and to meet a host of other criteria as well as submit a performance improvement project.
“Inadequate food and fluid intake is a common problem in nursing home residents. It can lead to poor nutrition, weight loss, hospitalization and even death,” said Gayla Brown, Mountain-Pacific quality specialist. “Faith Lutheran Home has taken a giant first step toward safeguarding the nutritional health of its residents,” she said.