The unsavory food being served at the health network is prompting caregivers to cook home-cooked meals for family members hospitalized in or living in CHSLDs.
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“It seems like I eat the same thing every day, meals that have no taste and make me lose my appetite,” explains an 81-year-old woman she met at a Montérégie hospital.
The lady has been in the hospital for three weeks with a broken hip; her son has decided to prepare home cooked meals for her so that she can regain strength when she needs to get back on her feet. Fearing reprisals, he asked that their identities be concealed.
“I’ve tasted what’s served to him and had trouble digesting it,” says his 55-year-old son. So now I bring him a meal or two a day. Sometimes three while picking him up for lunch at Tim Hortons. »
Almost every day he comes to the health facility with a lunch box, goes down to the cafeteria, warms up the food and takes it to his mother.
“Today we have pasta with beef and vegetables, turnips, a slice of bread and small cakes,” he explains to his mother.
Photo Clara Loiseau
Beef noodles with vegetables, fresh bread, pie and biscuits.
The joy of eating
Without hesitation, the eldest pricks the small bowls with her fork and eats with relish, she confides. However, the hospital had brought her a meal a few hours earlier, which she had left untouched.
Like him, several relatives Le Journal spoke to have decided to cook for their distressed loved one.
“My mother didn’t like the hospital meals at all, she didn’t eat. So at some point I thought I would cook his food myself and bring it to him every day. I did that for maybe 180 days,” says Stéphane Harvey, whose mother was hospitalized with health problems related to a kidney transplant.
Photo Clara Loiseau
He heats the dishes with the hospital’s microwave ovens.
On the menu of the medical supply store: tender roasts greased several hours in advance, overcooked and dry meat, redundancy in the dishes.
As soon as he started cooking meals for her, her mother’s behavior changed. “After that it was day and night. She started eating again,” says the man who lost his mother a year ago.
And so that it wouldn’t be too much of a burden, Mr. Harvey made the compromise of eating the same dishes he’d prepared for his mother, even if he hadn’t always liked it.
“I did what she likes to do to make her stronger and I ate the same thing because otherwise it would have been too much preparation,” he adds.
For Anik Généreux, these are snacks that she prepares every time her mother brings her to CHSLD for her allotted five days of rest per month.
“There is no fruit, it seems that it does not exist. We only give them jelly or biscuits, so I prepare compote, yoghurt or fruit for them because they like it and at least it will give them a good dessert,” explains this 56-year-old caregiver.
Apparently, Ms. Généreux knows that the meals her mother is served are often not of the best quality.
“But I need my rest when she goes to CHSLD, if I had to cook her meals these days I wouldn’t have any,” laments the woman who takes care of her mother every day. .
Good food is important for health
The joy of eating needs to be put back at the center of the plates served in healthcare facilities, experts argue.
“We need to completely rethink food in institutions and see it not as a technical service that needs to provide nutrients and proteins, but as care that has a dimension that just goes beyond the need to nourish the body,” says Nancy Press, Professor at the University of Sherbrooke and Director of the Laboratory on Seniors’ Diet and Geriatric Nutrition at the Center for Research on Aging.
Because in addition to nutrition, nutrition becomes more and more important as we age.
“Often it is one of the pleasures that lasts until the end. When you’re young you eat to eat, but as you get older it becomes more of a social activity. Food takes on a different meaning,” she adds.
For Ms. Presse it is clear that the health facilities will do what they can with the resources made available to them.
“We can all agree that meals in CHSLDs aren’t going to win haute cuisine awards, but they live with food service budget constraints that are really restrictive,” she explains.
“We really need political will to add money,” she continues, both for meals and for service and accompaniment.
Louise St-Denis, a professor in the nutrition department at the Université de Montréal School of Medicine, agrees.
“The budget is not always there. The money that foodservice managers have at their disposal is often not very generous and they have to dispose of them at a very limited cost,” she adds, but acknowledges that a lot of work has been done to improve meals at the establishments. .
Diet also plays a major role in health, the two experts recall.
“You have to see food as a treat, but also as a treatment, because if you don’t feed people properly, there will be consequences. People can be less independent and more susceptible to infections, pressure sores and skin sores,” explains Ms. St-Denis.
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