In order to improve resident opinion of dining services, as well as resident health, Doug Taggart, administrator at the 82-resident Arlington Residence and Rehabilitation Center, in Texas, implemented a fresh approach. “When I got here,” Taggart explains, “it was cafeteria dining at its worst.” Taggart and his team from Paragon Healthcare Group, the organization that stepped in to manage operations at Arlington one year ago, began making changes to the dining program, starting with taking a close look at food quality, presentation and aroma.
“To me, dining has to be one of the most important services in the facility,” Taggart says. “So much of the lives we live are centered around food, why should that change because someone is in a nursing home? We need to take care of the nursing aspect, and activities need to be stimulating, and the building needs to be clean and well kept, but if you have all of those things and a subpar dining program, you’re not going to have a good impression left on the people you’re taking care of. People are willing to overlook areas if they know the food is going to be fantastic.”
In addition to making meals more aromatic and visually appealing and working with the kitchen staff to refine their skills, Taggart and his team also established an Order Anytime Menu. If residents do not want the standard meal offering, they are welcome to choose from the Order Anytime Menu, which includes a limited array of deli sandwiches, burgers, pizza and cottage cheese with fruit. Residents were introduced to the Order Anytime Menu through a flyer, and newly admitted residents are introduced to the program upon registration. Taggart hopes to expand the program to paying employees and guests.
Taggart says the “biggest hiccup” with the new program is communication. Currently, the bulk of the Order Anytime Menu orders happen as residents come to the dining room during regular meal times, which disturbs the regular meal process. Taggart would ideally like to receive orders ahead of standard mealtimes so the kitchen knows how many of each option to make, which would help reduce waste and keep costs down. There are a few residents who are taking advantage of the order anytime promise by getting food at times other than regular meal times.
Even with the communication issue, Taggart says his team is able to stay within food budget with the new program.
“There are still improvements to be made, but I’m content with the progress that we’ve made since we’ve been here,” Taggart says. Residents are also content with the meal changes, which Taggart and his team are constantly evaluating through participation on the center’s resident council and assessment of resident physical improvements. “When we came in, there were serious weight loss issues,” Taggart recalls. “We have seen an impact in weight loss improvement … [the nutrition] helps with skin integrity, energy for therapy, and long-term residents are involved in the restorative nursing program where they’re working with the nursing staff or activities, so with the nutrition, they have the ability to participate on a higher level.”