St. Anthony's Senior Living

Our Memory Care Key Signatures: Dining Experience

senior living, kind hearted staff

What makes St. Anthony’s memory care program stand out? It comes down to our carefully crafted key signatures, which illustrate how we care for St. Anthony’s residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

We understand that memory care is more than just assistance with daily living activities and medical care. Life is a journey — and that journey that does not end with a dementia diagnosis. And at St. Anthony’s, our memory care residents continue their life journey in a different yet meaningful way.

Our team emphasizes the importance of this journey by calling our memory care program just that — Journeys. Our compassionate team of memory care professionals is here to help our residents here in Kansas City live a full, purposeful life beautiful in a unique way.

Each of the six memory care key signatures plays an essential part in our Journeys program. Our six signatures are:

From family partnerships to team development, we take our key signatures seriously as we implement them and embrace them in the everyday lives of our residents.

Essential to these highlights is the dining experience key signature. What does a meaningful and uplifting dining experience look like in memory care? Find out how we take daily meals to another level at St. Anthony’s.

Creating an Enjoyable Dining Experience

Every dining experience should be just that: an experience! We all know that meals are more than just the food themselves. Dining lights up the five senses. It includes visual, aromatic, and taste elements! And there should be no exception for residents in memory care.

The professionals at St. Anthony’s understand that sensory experiences can change with dementia. These cognitive changes can have a detrimental impact on dining. Suddenly, a simple meal on a white dinner plate can lose its appeal.

Why does this change occur? Dementia affects visual abilities, auditory processing and comprehension ability, and the ability to smell and taste. By stimulating the five senses, we can strive to positively impact the mood and change the behavior of those with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Building a Delicious Dining Environment

Dining is about so much more than simply placing food on a plate! Everyone should experience dining as an appealing, enjoyable time in a comfortable environment. Many senior living communities don’t value meal time, and it’s nothing more than a school cafeteria experience. But that’s not the case at St. Anthony’s.

Here, we start with an appealing table setup. We utilize colored dishes because we know the more food stands out on our residents’ plates, the easier it will be for them to enjoy it. Did you know those with dementia might not recognize what’s on the plate in front of them as food? That’s one reason why we’re so intentional about the dining environment. Forget about disposable styrofoam cups. Our memory care residents use lovely dinnerware, just like anyone else would.

Also critical to the dining experience is the environment itself. If things are loud and distracting, it can be difficult for those with cognitive impairment to eat. Focus is vital for getting nutrition, especially when chewing takes extra concentration. We seek to help our residents pay attention to the meal when it’s time to eat. Sometimes this means listening to relaxing music. Studies show that difficulty beginning a meal often leads to poor eating. We focus on the dining environment from the beginning to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Role Modeling Healthy Meal Time Habits

Research indicates that food choice, eating behavior, and dietary intake change with age. Surprisingly, a lot occurs in the body and mind before food reaches the mouth. As the mind changes, so can the way we eat.

The St. Anthony’s caregiving team understands that as Alzheimer’s and dementia progress, eating changes may occur. Nutrition overall can become challenging. You may notice your loved one’s eating habits becoming more sporadic, and finger foods may be more manageable than anything requiring utensils. There may be a preference for sweet foods, and appetites may change from day to day. Presentation is key, and a colorful plate is just as important as nutrition content. For these reasons, we constantly work to ensure your loved one enjoys nutritious meals.

Our team members enjoy having a meal with memory care residents. Having the dining experience together and seeing healthy eating role models can significantly assist your loved one. Witnessing the act of feeding oneself demonstrated can help memory care residents enjoy the independence of feeling themselves. That independence is imperative to a senior’s success, and we strive to help them enjoy it in every moment possible. That’s why we like to encourage our team to join our residents at meal times.

By eating with residents, our team members also have the opportunity to carefully watch residents’ eating patterns and nutrient intake. When intervention is needed, our team is on top of it.

Delivering Good Taste as Preferences Change

Interestingly, our taste buds change as we age. Sometimes, we see seniors struggle when food simply tastes bland. By understanding this, we help our dining team craft dishes that are visually appealing and taste and smell great.

Offering healthy foods is a priority at St. Anthony’s. At the same time, we provide these therapeutic diets in a way that looks, tastes, and feels good. We invite families to join us at meal time and experience the quality of dining at St. Anthony’s for themselves.

Want to learn more about memory care at St. Anthony’s? See what our incredible Journeys program has to offer. With our key signatures in mind, you’ll see how St. Anthony’s truly cares for your loved ones.