The Coronavirus has changed the landscape of our lives in a matter of two weeks. A week ago I entered the hospital to visit my husband Mike after his elective back surgery. First, I was screened, temperature taken and a series of questions to answer. I was the only visitor he was allowed to have; not one visitor at a time, but the only visitor for his entire stay. He was the last patient in surgery before the ward was being transformed exclusively for Coronavirus patients.
Each day tighter restrictions were put in place. Only one entrance could be used. Visiting hours were reduced and ended at 6 p.m. It was essential that the visitor remained in the patient’s room at all times until leaving the hospital. The hospital corridors were reminiscent of a ghost town; completely empty. I barely found my way out.
Several clients called to ask my opinion on how to cope with the jarring restrictions, including ending communal dining, in their senior living communities within those four days. Kind Dining® has always stressed the importance of mealtimes in the community dining room. Now it was not permissible. Yet it is most important to enhance residents’ nutritional health, emotional well-being, and quality of life, no matter the setting. That’s true for all of us.
In this complicated and extraordinary battle with COVID-19, it is even more important for different reasons. I’m here today to share a few important tips to create a new normal about eating in isolation. Here are 5 ways that will consistently make a difference.
- Introduce yourself and greet your resident by name.
- Be able to describe their meal as you present their plate.
- Quickly scan the tray for any missing condiments, and have a backup supply close by.
- Exit graciously after sharing a kind word, a community news update, or report on the weather outside.
- Make arrangements for yourself or a co-worker to circle back within 3 minutes to Ask: Is there anything else we can get you?
Keeping this routine lowers the feelings of isolation and frustration. It Improves the feelings of solidarity and familiarity and improves the feeling of appreciation for one another. Expect each interaction to be different but keep your response calm and consistent.
Thank you for your service and for all you do.
When a chef leaves his domain in the kitchen to enter the dining room to say, “Hello, I hope you enjoyed your meal today. I created the menu with you in my mind,” he touches everyone in the dining room creating a bond between himself and the seniors. Relationships begin in the dining room! Seniors may sit at a dining table with strangers and leave after the meal with new friendships beginning to form. Some may last a long time; some may develop into more than friendship.
Business deals are made over the lunch or dinner table. It’s where trust is built and new ideas are created. The dining table is the best asset for your community! It is a powerful tool and can be utilized to build friendships between seniors (who will invite their friends to come to live in their community,) and build friendships with coworkers, cementing a team of food servers that create a flow and ease when serving meals. Kind Dining® helps your food servers to attain that cherished level of friendship with interactive training because it works for everyone involved! Kind Dining encourages food servers to help each other, to work as a team, to be open and friendly with the residents and guests in your dining room. I designed this methodology with kindness in mind. It’s important that we are all kind to each other.
The habits we practice are noticed by others and copied, sometimes without realizing it. It is one of the better ways to learn. Food server-to-senior relationships and food server-to-coworker relationships also frequently require reconnections to company values in order to improve service. Refreshing your food servers with team-building skills through hands-on training is a great way to accomplish goals in the community dining room.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Remember, the service given has the power to build friendships.
A friend of a friend who is a food server in a senior living community in the East told me about Mary’s early experience moving into the community about five years after her husband passed away. She timidly stepped into a busy dining room for the first time, glanced around to see all the tables occupied. Robert looked up just as she entered the room, saw her dilemma and immediately stood up, went to her and invited her to sit at his table where there happened to be one seat available. Their conversation over lunch revealed many shared likes in activities. Mary thanked him, explaining that she knew no one at all in the community even though it had been recommended to her by a friend who also planned to move into the community within the following year. Robert was delighted with their conversation at the table and suggested they meet for the dinner hour, too. He could then tell her about the many events and activities offered at her new home. He later said how lucky he was the host who usually greeted seniors at the door, was called away and not there when Mary entered.
As you may have sensed, after a year of spending nearly every day together, their wedding was organized in the community, surrounded by friends and family.
Their story isn’t the only one my friend told me. She mentioned the friendships formed that became bonding and lasting. Sometimes it comes about by sharing a talent such as painting, quilting, or a passion for reading and talking about books. What brought her to tell my friend about the importance of these seniors finding new relationships were they met in the dining room! It was the relaxed atmosphere of being at the table together, ‘breaking bread’ as the saying goes, embracing the rituals of a mealtime. It is an easy way to come to know someone without anxiety or stress.
Recorded stories revealing the pleasures of dining go centuries back in history. Kind Dining® training teaches your food servers how they can improve dining room pleasure for your residents and for your food serving staff. Happy relationships formed between residents can be a result in proper training for food servers. Building strong relationships among the food serving staff to better perform duties, by interacting, make their learning easier and permanent. Kind Dining® training results in teamwork coming from the friendly relationships of your food serving staff.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Remember, the service you give has the power to build lasting relationships between seniors and between the food serving staff contributing to a happier community.
It’s more than food servers being courteous to the seniors in your community dining room. It’s more than pulling out a chair or finding the best table for a particular senior to sit. It’s also about being civil, courteous to all your coworkers. It’s about lending a helping hand without anyone asking for help. When a food server notices her teammate has her hands full or needs an inside hint on how to better handle a situation and stepping in, it’s about that. It’s about being kind to the manager, the dishwasher and your food serving teammate, not just another person getting a job done.
It’s about these things and more at Kind Dining® training sessions. It’s about kindness. It’s about civility. Studies show that extending kindness reduces anxiety, creates a feeling of happiness and social connection. These are choices, along with food serving skills that can be learned with practice every day. The mood of the giver of kindness elates as well as the mood of the person receiving the kind gesture. It’s a wonderful moment when you help lift someone out of a mournful mood.
Recently, the media has brought attention to incivility in workplaces and the effects it has on employees and the company itself. They state that employees are more likely to leave a job they actually love because of rudeness and incivility from a coworker or administrator. Uncivil behavior creates toxic situations that can cause serious unrest in any community dining room. If your senior residents aren’t happy in their dining room, they will be looking elsewhere to live. Vacancies in a residence are time-consuming and costly to refill. The community will also lose its best food servers that encourage the homey feeling you want your seniors to enjoy when they appear at mealtimes. Poor relationships between employees are also linked to a lower quality of care.
It’s time to introduce education for collaboration and relationship-building to have a retirement community that is safe and filled with kind food servers that you would want in your own home.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Kind Dining helps to heal broken relationships and supports harmony, communication, and team building!
The niece of an acquaintance was telling her experience of being a guest and her first dinner with a friend in a senior retirement community recently. After stating how surprisingly wonderful the food was, she mentioned the service. The server was a young college student working her summer between semesters. She knew this because the girl told them, along with her dreams of a future, lack of money, complaints about working in the dining room and how she planned to break off with her boyfriend. The niece felt the server completely overshadowed what could have been a perfect visit with her friend. She said she didn’t expect good food but got it and she did expect good service and didn’t get it. Professionals and experience food servers know that good service can save a bad meal, yet a good meal cannot save poor service. The memory of it remains.
The young lady wasn’t crude or rude she just didn’t realize how disruptive her behavior was at the table of friends. This behavior is no longer acceptable in senior retirement communities. Residents are demanding respect and they are receiving it. Finding a table to sit where a single or newly widowed resident feels comfortable isn’t always easy in some dining rooms. It is hard for many seniors in that category entering a retirement community. To attempt sitting at a table already seated with two or three couples is a double dose of loss. It is smart for a community to have several tables that hold an uneven number of seats for that purpose.
Teaching food servers to be alert to the single residents entering the dining room and helping them to find a suitable place for them is a wise move. Your food servers will sense fulfillment in helping, the senior will feel confident that he/she is wanted and the community can add another bonus in their favor.
Kind Dining® coaching guides food servers to be aware of single diners, to greet seniors when they enter the dining room, to speak to residents by name, to use small courtesies that are noticed by senior diners and to say a pleasant farewell when residents and guests leave. These are the marks of good coaching, encouraging food servers to be aware and in control of their responsibilities in giving focus to the residents in the community.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Practice your Kind Dining® skills every day; they will soon come naturally!