Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Mar 23, 2010 08:22 AM

Insitutional Food - This is a rant - I admit it

Over the past few years I have been visiting my elderly aunt (96 now) who lives in an assisted living facility where all of the residents eat in the dining room. All of the residents are either elderly, have compromised health or both. The food that is served is carbs, fried, protein heavy, salt heavy, low on veggies and just bad. It can't be good for the residents but this seems to be standard for this type of facility as well as for hospitals! What are we doing feeding this stuff to people who need, perhaps more than any of us except little kids, tasty and healthy food?!
I do try to take my aunt out to eat better food when I visit but she is not always able or willing to go out. Taking food to her does not seem to be an option due to distance (me) and storage (her) problems. By the way - this particular facility is surrounded by farms and farm stands.
Okay - I have ranted (inspired by the post on the Jamie Oliver show) but what to do?
Thanks for listening.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Have you spoken with anyone at the facility? A short discussion, in a little meeting with the chef and the head of the facility, may begin a process of change.
    Especially, as you say, with farms and harvesting going on around it there is no reason why something can't be done.
    It may take some work on your part, but from my experience it's usually what needs to happen. One person can make the difference.

    1. We noticed it when we put Mrs. Sippi's parents in a facility.


      1. A place like this should have a registered dietician/nutritionist on staff. Please speak with him or her and make this person aware of your concerns. I would think any assisted-living facility that is truly concerned with its resident's quality of life would listen to you.

        In addition, perhaps the facility can accomodate your concerns with a special menu for your aunt. Many of these places offer different meals based on their resident's dietary concerns. Maybe a note from your aunt's doctor could get her a meal higher in vegeatbles and what she needs, and lower in carbs and the other foods that concern you.

        7 Replies
        1. re: ttoommyy

          I'm not sure having a nutritionist on staff would solve the problem.

          More often than not nutritious food =/= delicious food.

          Ensure protein drinks come to mind ........

          1. re: ipsedixit

            I fear you're correct in that. I overheard a dietician telling another that an anorexic patient they were both working with had eaten a piece of pie like it was some sort of big triumph. Pie is tasty and fattening, Ensure is easy. Like it was too difficult to come up with prepared real food that had some nutrition to it, especially in a patient that's flat-out guaranteed to be malnourished. Sad.

            1. re: EWSflash

              To be fair, it is an accomplishment...

              1. re: raleighboy

                I agree with you, raleighboy. I once had a neighbor whose young son only enjoyed reading the sports section of the paper. She was very bright and a published author but said she just wante him to read anything and he would eventually broaden his interests. And she was right. Get that anorexic to eat anything and then way later work on what. Give her multivitamins with iron in the meantime :)

              2. re: EWSflash

                No, not quite sad. Reviving taste and the willingness to eat can often involve starting by eating foods that are not nutritionally optimal, but that awaken positive liminal associations that have been dormant. The dieticians may know more than you do from years of experience.

                1. re: EWSflash

                  Ensure is also a lot more tolerable to elderly who have dental and mouth problems. As long as you can still swallow, you can get some calories and vitamins from Ensure.

                  1. re: beachmouse

                    Agreed. But a home my dad was in didn't give him anything else until we caught them at it because he had parkinson's and it "took too much time" to feed him real food. Then they had the nerve to complain that he had diarrhea. hello? Liquid diet?

                    Ensure is a mixed blessing. I'm not knocking it, i'm knocking the lazy cows at the home he was in. There is a small potential for abuse.

            2. We're TRYING to get my MIL into assisted living and have visited two places so far. The food is fabulous. The residents order from menus that include salads, soups, sandwiches, grilled items. One we just visited had probably 20 items on the left side of the menu that remain the same for about three months and daily specials on the right side. After she had a stroke last fall, she was in a skilled nursing facility for about six weeks. Although their menus were MUCH more limited, there were always at least two choices, plus soup and salad. Oh, and the places we looked at recently had MWs, fridge/freezer and kitchenettes in the apartments. One place we had looked at previously didn't have that in the rooms but did have a common areas with those amenities and more.

              None of this helps your aunt's situation but it's not a universal problem IMO. BTW I'm talking about facilities in Reno, NV, so not a big city but not rural either. Good luck.

              1. Fiona, I know what you mean. I had the same feeling when my father-in-law was in the hospital and rehab for a stroke. The hospital had him on a "special" diet for patients recovering from heart attacks and strokes that was full of refined, empty carbs. I didn't see what was so different from it and the regular food they served. I think the only thing different was the sodium level.