A couple of years ago the Veterans Affairs healthcare system's nutrition and food services department began remaking its programs to better serve patients. One of the areas where the biggest transformations have taken place is in the community living centers, formerly called nursing homes. FSD talked with Amy Milenberg, patient food operations manager at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia, S.C., to find out about the culture changes taking place at her facility.
You, along with many other VA facilities, are making significant changes with the foodservice operation at the community living centers. Tell me about these cultural changes.
The changes are intended to make living at a community living center a more home-like experience. When you are at home, you choose what you want to eat, when you want to eat and where you want to eat. The changes that are being implemented take these things into consideration. Flexible meal times, flexible choices, food availability, input into menu planning, special meals with family members and special holiday meals are just some of the changes.
Why are you making these changes?
VA nutrition and food services is committed to providing our veterans an enriched dining experience. These changes further our commitment to providing exceptional service.
One of the changes at your facility is the Dinner for 8 Program. How does that program works?
The Dinner for 8 Program is held monthly and designed for 8 people who reside within our community living centers (CLC). The program provides a smaller, relaxed, more home-like dining experience. Residents of the CLC sign up to attend in a reservation book. The first resident to sign up suggests the meal for the evening. Residents are welcome to invite guests within the limit of the 8 participants. The meal is prepared according to what was suggested and is served in a separate dining area. The residents sit around a table together as they dine, like they would if they were at home.
Another new program is the FAC (Friday Afternoon Club). What does that program entail?
Friday Afternoon Club is another monthly program held within our CLC. This program introduced our Therapeutic Libation Policy, which allows our residents to have alcohol. Residents may have an alcoholic beverage of their choosing, with an MD order, during the event. We also serve a special meal.
One of the components to these culture changes is creating a more social atmosphere among the patients and also between the patients and the foodservice staff. Why is this social aspect so important?
Increasing the social interaction, personalizing care and developing relationships between staff and the residents can improve the quality of life. That's what our jobs are all about.
To read more about the changes taking place in the VA system's nutrition and food services department, read the cover story in the September issue.