Stories From the Heart of the Home

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Collected by Linda Bump, Registered Dietician, Consultant Action Pact and LaVrene Norton, Founder, Action Pact

Life Happens in the Kitchen.  Residents, staff and family come together through working and dining in the household kitchen.  As a result, household kitchens are full of life!

At Brewster Village

We have a villager who had her beloved family meatloaf recipe in her head, but she had some memory concerns and couldn’t remember some of the specifics. We gathered other popular recipes, and based on what she could remember, we recreated her recipe. She baked her famous meatloaf for her whole household!

A villager and her daughter have begun the annual tradition of making stuffing for their household’s Thanksgiving feast. The household team and other family members raved about how wonderful this was, and so much better than ‘Stovetop’!

A group of villagers care for a garden in their household. From their garden they are proud to offer a variety of fresh produce to share with their neighbors.

One villager who has been living here a long time takes pride in setting the table with silverware rolled up in colorful napkins.  She also washes dishes with great care, even checking to make sure the dishwasher achieves its hot-water sanitation level.

Being in the north, some delicacies are not as familiar to us. We purchased some items to prepare “southern cuisine” favorites, and a villager who grew up with those items showed us the proper way to brew sweet tea and to cook grits and collard greens.

Summertime in northeast Wisconsin means three short months of spending time outside. Our villagers have helped us grill food, from center of the plate entrees to fresh sweet corn (which they’ve picked out at the farmers market and shucked themselves), and finished up by roasting s’mores over our fire pit!  Tim Neuman, Food and Nutrition Services Director, Brewster Village, Appleton, WI

At Chapel Pointe

My favorite story is when we were doing some baking, one of the residents was seen licking the bowl (after it was emptied).  She had such a big grin on her face! She also wanted to wash the dishes, so I had her come into the household kitchen area beside the sink with her chair. I put dishwater in the sink and helped her stand (with the chair behind her) so she could wash the dishes. She was happy to help. She said she loved to wash dishes. Michelle Shaffer, Household Coordinator, Chapel Pointe, Carlisle PA

Preparing for large events takes patience and teamwork.  The ladies in our household always enjoy sharing the tasks, recipes and a good time. Candas Negley CNA Household Coordinator, Chapel Pointe, Carlisle PA

When we have a group gather in the afternoon for refreshment, there is always good conversation & plenty of laughs in our household.  Julie Beecher, CAN Household Coordinator, Chapel Pointe, Carlisle PA  

Because The Kitchen is the Heart of the Home, it’s all about what comes from the heart: relationships, fellowship, sharing, caring, learning and growing together.

For me, my favorite times were at Meadowlark Hills when as the DON, I would make omelets one morning a week in our households. Aside from the satisfaction it gave me knowing residents and staff looked forward to Tuesday mornings, it was also a time of real interaction with other team members, who had the opportunity to see me as other than the “authority figure” DON. Those were times of fellowship and camaraderie that really benefitted me just as much as (if not more than) the residents or other team members. It was also an opportunity to walk the talk, and show that anyone can serve in a capacity beyond their credentials. Roger Beins, now COO at Menno Haven, Chambersburg PA

At Garden Spot Village, the last time I ate lunch in a household dining room I observed a resident having lunch at the bar. The Homemaker offered her dessert — ice cream with blueberries — by saying, “June, we have ice cream with blueberries for dessert.  Are you interested?” June said, “No, no,” and shook her head no. The Homemaker set a small bowl of ice cream down on the bar within June’s reach. She did not cajole or otherwise try to “encourage” June to eat or choose the dessert. She simply went about her work.

Meanwhile June ate the bowl of ice cream and blueberries. Because she lives with dementia, June is prone to saying no when she means yes and vice-versa. It seemed the Homemaker understood this. Once June finished she asked again if she would like another serving and June motioned no. The Homemaker put another small bowl down on the bar. June ate that one and then another — three in total.

June chose. The homemaker listened to more than her words, treated her like an adult and was successful at helping her get the nutrition that is so important. An observation from Garden Spot Village, New Holland PA shared by Megan Hannan, Executive Leader, Action Pact 

The kitchen is the heart of the home. Whether it’s a household kitchen, a neighborhood kitchen, a country kitchen, even a thoughtfully designed dining room with a hospitality kitchen nook, the kitchen pumps life into our home.  The challenge in long-term care often ends up being the “heart” part, and best practice has as much to do with heart-based relationships as with food or physical design (maybe even more). It takes homemakers, dining staff, all staff working together in relationship to create true life in the kitchen in every home. We have already mastered the sanitation, safety, nutrition, menu expectations and requirements, and now it’s time to understand the importance of training all staff in the crucial “task” of creating and fostering meaningful relationships.

A special invitation to those of you who are coming to the 2019 changing the Culture of Aging Conference in August in Louisville.

 Join us at the Sage Session (B11) on Monday afternoon to share thoughts and stories on the Deep Seated Issue of Choice as we all strive to make life happen in our kitchens, bringing residents, staff and families together to work and dine in relationship.  We will have an opportunity to learn from each other, to observe some inspiring (and enjoyable) relationships in dining, and to talk creatively about new opportunities to train all staff in growing relationships to make our kitchens truly the heart of our residents’ home.


2 comments on “Stories From the Heart of the Home

  1. Ellen Belk, CDP on

    Great article!
    I hate that I’ll be missing the Conference in Louisville this year! But, I too believe in the power of using food and food-related programs for high impact outcomes. Approximately 2 years ago I launched Taste & Tell, across our portfolio of nearly 100 communities. This is a Signature program for our residents in Memory Support. Taste & Tell is a culinary collaboration between the Chef and Activity Professional. It’s an immersive hands-on experience, wherein participants work side-by-side with the Chef’s. It’s been a remarkable initiative, gaining high praise and media exposure. The feedback from our Chef’s has been marvelous too; as they express a new-found-freedom when they get to come out of the kitchen and into the care space and share their expertise for those we serve with Dementia.
    Last year, I obtained a Registered mark for Taste & Tell! So, now it’s a recognized and proprietary program for our organization.

    Thanks again – for sharing all the amazing stories of how food connects us all!

    • Cathy Lieblich on

      Wonderful, Ellen! Thanks for sharing! Hopefully, you’ll be able to join us at next year’s conference in Pittsburgh.

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