Already many stories have come out of our physical distancing for more than a month now. One I heard recently concerned a woman’s husband who was ill but not with the symptoms of the novel coronavirus. The husband didn’t have a cough at all, or fever, muscle pain, chills, loss of taste or smell, or any shortness of breath. He had swollen glands and a sore throat just as he had the previous year. When his wife called the doctor, he said, “With the present situation being what it is, do not come to the clinic.” He gave her an appointment time when he would pay a visit via online video. Sitting in bed, in front of his computer at the appointed time, the doctor’s image appeared and went through the usual routine, say ah, turn your head so the doctor could see the obviously swollen glands and bingo. The visit commenced with a prescription sent to their pharmacy of choice.
This was modern technology put to good use just when it was needed. Don’t panic. Your food serving team will not be replaced by robots. The personal presence of a ‘Good Morning!’ is cherished by residents. In the times we are living in now, many are craving a hug from a friend or family member they cannot be with. We must stay the required 6 feet away when outside the home. A handshake has long been a first indication of meeting a stranger and knowing instantly whether this stranger would become a friend. Times are changing.
The serving team that has been well trained knows the importance of a familiar face or voice and how comforting it can be to residents sequestered in their rooms. To address the person by name and make small talk is a lifeline to many residents, aside from their computers and cell phones. Modern technology keeps us in touch with the outside world, but humanity needs a personal connection, i.e. a pat on the hand, a flower on the food tray, a reassurance that dark times will end.
Many of these personal connections necessary to keep residents contented, comforted, and free from fear, came from the hospitality customs offered for centuries. It is the same hospitality Kind Dining® has been teaching since the beginning. People are not born with these skills but once they become aware of them and how easily they can learn them with the right instructors, they can practice them until they come naturally. The food serving team is the lifeline of the senior living community in sickness, in health, and in physical distancing times such as we are living in today.
The story came to me recently about a conversation between a few friends. They were reminiscing on FaceTime about their earlier married years when they used to have themed parties on Saturday nights after settling the kids into bed for the babysitter. Now they were looking forward to themed dinner times to break up the monotony of being physically distanced from their friends in their retirement community. It helps to hold the gloom of the present pandemic situation at bay. They mentioned how thoroughly enjoyable a Hawaiian luau was one night and a Mexican Fiesta another. Laughing, they told how the food servers joined in on the fun and dressed the part to match the theme, even bringing a little related music in with their appropriately decorated food carts. It worked to lift everyone’s spirits.
We at Kind Dining® have long embraced fresh ideas and proven techniques to keep your residents happy and contented with their mealtimes. Themes are one tool that can be used to enlighten moods, especially at this time when many are uncertain. Hospitality remains a constant in giving people satisfaction at mealtime while it also encourages your food serving team the pleasure of helping residents be reassured during these days. The present is a time of stress we are all experiencing daily. Let your genius show by being creative. Ask your food servers for their thoughts, too. They may have new ideas from talking with residents as they serve their meals.
At Kind Dining®, we have a saying: Mealtime is the most important time to positively impact your resident’s nutritional health, wellbeing, and quality of life. That doesn’t change whether you are serving in the dining room or extending room service. Support your food servers by letting them know how valued they are, how you appreciate the additional work they are providing to residents to keep them calm during this crisis. When you give your food serving staff a new sense of purpose, they will get along better with others on the food serving team and with residents. Now is a good moment for them to focus time and energy on what matters most: mealtimes. Your residents will respond in kind.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: Provide a warm, sincere greeting when you enter a resident’s room.
The food serving team in a community sets the ambiance for each mealtime and everyone agrees that mealtimes are the most important time of the day for residents. With today’s required physical distancing, food servers are often the one human, in-the-flesh-link to the outside world for some residents. They carry the most responsibility, not only bringing in food the resident anticipates, but also brings in a live one-on-one conversation, community news of the day, and calmness to some residents who are still fearful of COVID 19. Your food servers are the company’s most valued asset in normal times; in times of the pandemic they are vital. Good always comes out of bad. When your foodservice team comes into work every day knowing there is possible danger to them, but also knowing they are needed is an act of heroism. The company and the community are depending on them, as are the residents they have come to know through the service they have been giving before the Coronavirus appeared.
Forward-thinking administration will tell their food serving teams just how important they are and how appreciative they are of their food serving performance. Let them be aware they are crucial to their work; their achievements reflect company values. Most of all let them know the impact their food serving technique has on the residents. They may not be aware that the job they do every day is vital to the well-being of the residents’ quality of life as well as the life-line of the company.
Kind Dining® training is a great way to achieve the food serving team you want to have in your community. It is a time for paying attention to detail in delivering the room service necessary today. Kind Dining® trained food servers who participate especially on theme meal days will help to relax residents upset by the COVID 19 threat. Dressing to match the theme, adding appropriate music, and extra notables all help in the process. The themes are meant to create a fun time to loosen up worried residents. Theme dining is one way to lighten the moods of those who are in restricted social gatherings, especially at mealtimes.
Our B♥ Kind® Tip: You are important to your company and community; how you serve meals makes a difference!
Serving food has always been so much more than bringing food to the table. Every person who loves being in the kitchen or has restaurant life in their blood system knows that “Bad service can ruin a good meal yet good service can save a bad one.” Even your finest chefs will tell you that. When it comes to senior retirement communities and nursing homes it is even more critical.
Surveys have proven over and over again that social engagement and building relationships for a quality living are paramount to seniors in nursing homes and retirement communities. The social engagements and relationships must be continued even if the residents are restricted to their rooms. Food servers who engage with the seniors they serve are found to be happier individuals themselves. It is their devotion to the idea of mealtimes being a social event that reflects back to them when seeing a resident enjoy having the food server enter their room. Address them by name, make a casual comment to engage a conversation, and pass on information gathered on the events of the day in the community.
When families cannot visit, the cheer they would bring is left up to the food server to convey. A sincere compliment will quietly encourage a senior to continue ‘dressing up’ for dinner. Asking a simple question will encourage an otherwise shy or reticent person to engage in much-needed conversation. Kind Dining® training continues to direct the food serving staff to expand their own intelligence, responsibility, and to improve the food serving protocols installed in your community. Remember to wear your name tags so people may speak to you personally. Smile and make eye contact so others may read the twinkle in your eyes the smile they can’t see under your mask that you are happy to be serving their meal.
The food serving team is the most valuable community asset it has. They set the dining ambiance for your resident whether it is the community dining room or their private room where they are now taking their meals. It still is the most significant time of the day for your residents. The brief social interaction received during the dining hour presently comes from the food serving team. Hospitality is always the key factor and just as essential as ever.
Our B♥ Kind ® Tip: Practice your Kind Dining® skills every day until they come naturally!