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Menu options expand to meet special dietary needs

[caption id="attachment_6184" align="alignleft" width="772"] Emporia residents gathering and eating in the dining room.[/caption]

Food is one of the top considerations for anyone moving into a continuing care community like Emporia Presbyterian Manor. It’s obviously important that the food is tasty, satisfying and nutritious. But what about residents who have special dietary needs?

Our dining services staff recently added items to the always-available menu that are gluten-free, vegetarian, or diabetic-friendly. The additions came as a direct result of resident requests, said Emily Prouse, registered dietician for Emporia Presbyterian Manor.

“Knowing that we’re willing to make adjustments for them is a big deal. We try to make sure they know we’re listening,” Emily said. “We want it to be as homelike as it can be, because we know it’s a huge adjustment.”

Residents can choose to order from the daily menu or choose popular items from the always-available menu. Some of the new daily items include omelets made to order, a chef salad, fish and chips, a BLT, and a pulled pork sandwich.

For some, going gluten-free or cutting back on dairy may be a personal lifestyle choice. But other residents’ diets are restricted for medical reasons, and the dining services staff tries to accommodate them while still finding foods they can enjoy. Emily recently worked with a resident who could have only certain types of softened foods -- most of which weren’t especially appealing. So Emily worked with her and her family to find things she could both eat and enjoy. Raw vegetables and toast were out, but they learned certain kinds of meatballs and grilled cheese were OK.

“Quality of life is so important,” Emily said. “I understand her side. She says, ‘I want to enjoy what I’ve got.’ So we sat down together and came up with options that work within her restrictions.”

When a resident has a dietary request, the dining staff will meet with him or her individually to explore their options, said Johny Patwary, director of dining services. They will consult with family members and physicians to make sure they have accurate information. Johny said his goal is to never say no, and to present residents with answers and resources quickly.

“Food is a big deal with residents’ families when they are trying to pick a community for their parents,” Johny said. “When they do move in, I notice a majority of family members try to meet with me or the chef or the dietician to follow up. We will go above and beyond to make sure they are happy with what we have to offer.”

In the 11 years Emily has been at Presbyterian Manor, so much has changed about food service. In addition to expanded menus, today’s residents also have more choice about when they eat. No longer are they required to show up during a precise, short window of time. If they’re more likely to eat at a different hour, they’re more likely to stay at a healthy weight. And, Emily said, that’s the priority.

“The meal time thing is a big deal,” Emily said. “Maintaining their weight is so important at this age. Appetite decreases with age. So, one thing I have to do often is tie it back to health and strength.”

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