The Social Kitchen

March 24, 2021 / By admin / No Comments

Have you ever wondered why kitchens are the focal point of family functions and is the place where conversations flow easily? Food unifies people in an intriguing way. The desire to be nourished in conversation and nutrition is so powerful that our Dietary Department is recognized as a social kitchen, a place where food is the major avenue of connection.  Our residents and their families connect with staff on a personal level, sharing stories of traditions and favorite foods. Mary Wade is family and our kitchen is the social center of our home where every person comes together to not only eat but to improve quality of health.

Laurene Ortowski, CDM, CFPP, Director of Dietary Services, has worked in Food Services at Mary Wade for 39 years. Laurene is a member of the Dietary Managers Association and a Certified Food Protection Professional. Laurene understands and imparts on her staff that diet is critically important for older adults, because of the impact adequate nutrition intake of both food and fluid have on their overall health. A nutrient-dense diet contains foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and other nutrients important for health, without too much saturated fat, added sugars and sodium. That means a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, proteins from lean meat, skinless poultry, fish, peas and beans, and nuts and seeds. Working hand and hand with Nutritionist, Charmaine Thompson, colorful plates of calories, proteins, and vitamins are created to foster the growth of muscle and bone density that have been lacking due to changes in physiology, metabolism, and function. 

Laurene states, “For example, a diet high in nitrate found in green leafy vegetable and beets, is beneficial for cardiovascular health by helping with relaxing and widening the arteries and vessels. Vitamin B12 deficiency have been found to contribute to decrease in cognitive function. Medications ordered to treat their medical conditions can also have a drug-nutrient interaction, which can also impact how much nutrient is absorb and nutrient wasting.  For example, Aspirin can deplete Vitamin C availability need for a strong immune system. “

Charmaine states, “I’ve been working with the older adult population for 36 years in a variety of settings. During that time, it has given me great joy and pride to assist older adults and/or their caregivers in understanding how important a healthy balance dietary intake is for “Healthy Aging” and their well-being both mentally and physically. By the year 2025, older adults are expected to make up 25% of the US population. Older adults have different nutritional needs than younger adults due to physiological, environmental and social factors.  It’s important to me to provide through education, clinical practice and the development of nutritional programs, that help older adults improve or maintain their health, to assist them to achieve the goal of “Healthy Aging”.

Mary Wade has provided Laurene and Charmaine the opportunity to develop and implement nutritional programs that impact the lives and well-being of older adults at different stages of aging. Through the planning and development of the campus wide menus for the: Adult Day Center, Residential Living Care, Skilled Nursing, Short Term Rehabilitation and Long-Term Care.  The program follows up to date, current standards guideline identified in The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025.  The food and nutritional service program at the Mary Wade Home, provide meals to its clients through a Resident Centered Dining Program with the residents having input in to planning the facility’s menus, the opportunity to select their meal choices and the opportunity to dine in a variety of locations of their choice. Great effort is made to take into consideration their individual food preferences, religious and ethnic background. The staff at Mary Wade takes a team approach when caring for our residents needs. 

Working with the food services and nutrition departments, Eva Montas, Director of the Innovative Swallowing Program provides therapies for drink and diet upgrades to solids that better enable one’s dining experience and socialization. The program provides an objective measure of swallow dysfunction, visual and auditory biofeedback to increase efficacy of swallowing exercises as well as encourage active patient participation. Dysphagia affects 15 million Americans per year which leads to serious complications.

Eva reflects on a client who made a remarkable and difficult recovery from tube feeding to solids.  ”It was a team effort to strategize the stages of introducing the proper stages of food consistencies along with the therapy. Dietary ordered specific brands of food to puree, blended and chopped, which was pivotal in having the client participation. Our client worked very hard and it was Mary Wade’s privilege to provide him with an improved quality of life.”

Food contains the foundation our bodies need to heal and fuel themselves. Our residents enjoy eating delicious and healthy meals as they listen to music and socialize. The Mary Wade staff take great pride and joy in their roles. The amount of care they put into every individualized meal truly shows how much they feel fulfilled in providing the nutritional needs in the most soul comforting way.  We are proud to educate and empower the resident and as well as affirmation of their hard work. Mary Wade understands that giving choices, offering the small things, is always important.



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