Brought to you by Higher Standards: a passion for hospitality
Kind Dining Connection: Bringing Warmth to the Table

Best Practices

Nurse Decides to Pour Coffee

How Small Acts Make a Big Difference

"Employees are happiest when they're
trying to achieve goals that are
difficult but not out of reach"
Daniel Gilbert
Author of Stumbling on Happiness
Small Acts Make a Big DifferenceI was so moved by a nurse in my last Kind Dining® training, I gave her a round of applause. I offer this training to staff and providers at senior living communities nationwide. On Monday, the nurse was adamant that, “There was no way [she] could see how [she] and her staff would be able to help serve at the evening meal.” On Tuesday, we actually had some fun for a few hours: We talked through the serving steps, practiced them together, and discussed how socializing around the meal often moves people to get along better. On Wednesday, as we talked through the value of individual initiative, the nurse volunteered her own story. At the evening meal the night before, she chose to pour coffee and water for the residents. The serving staff was so genuinely appreciative; the nurse was overwhelmed by their graciousness and continued gratitude for her help. She was amazed by their reaction, as well as the residents’ acknowledgment. She committed to continue helping in the dining room.

If we are not intrinsically motivated to improve the dining experience in senior living, the new Quality Indicator Survey (QIS) process in nursing homes will be an impetus. This federally mandated process will make providers accountable for relationship and service quality in a whole new way. Because the principles behind it have proven to enhance residents’ quality of life, I believe it will soon broaden its reach throughout all senior housing options. It is not an easy process to realize that our job responsibilities are changing and that new tasks require new skills. However, learning to provide better service in the dining environment is a skill most people can master. 
Providing true hospitality is an opportunity for staff to feel respected and empowered. Getting to that place is a process of change that feels vulnerable. Such change requires developing our best behavior, making an effort to demonstrate good manners and kindness to others (primarily co-workers, and of course, residents). Honing relationship skills is not a practice that has been readily embraced in the nursing home environment, until now.
It is a pleasure to witness staff, like the nurse mentioned above, who internalize and connect to the difference their attitudes and actions make. When staff appreciate their role as servers, they can quickly see the improvements in their residents’ quality of life. Embracing hospitality is good for staff, good for their co-workers, and the research shows it is good for the company too.

Focus on Food

Mechanical Art Comes of Age

Contributed by Janelle L. Asai, RD, LD and Mark Dougherty, BS, CDM, CFPP

Mechanical Art Comes of AgeAs we look to the changing atmosphere and customer expectations in long-term care, rehabilitation, assisted living, memory care, and independent living, the standard for dining services is in a state of flux. What worked in the 90s and 2000s is not going to cut the mustard going forward. An area of focus to raise the bar is the mechanically altered diet presentation. We have shape and mold puree, but what about the mechanical soft texture diet? That pile of ground chicken on the plate is about as appetizing as the old days of puree in bowls.

Moving beyond those bowls is what can take a community from average to superior without a lot of extra effort. It just takes some planning, a little skill, and a change in process. Working with several simple culinary procedures and equipment it is easy to take your mechanical soft texture from semi-dry piles to easily sculpted, appetizing creations. One way to start is simply using your plastic spatula. For example, add extra thickened gravy to your mechanical roast beef. Place a scoop on the plate, and using a spatula, press down at an angle in three overlapping places, making your scooped pile look like three slices of beef. Then, top with gravy over the three "slices." This gives your food dimension and interest, plus some extra fun!

Over the next few months we will be presenting our ideas here and hope you will take the journey with us. Mechanical Food Art will be introducing a new website, providing presentations, and introducing programs that will assist you in your journey to make your mechanically altered foods awesome. Learn more by contacting us at
Be Kind, Be Courteous, Be ServiceSmart

B♥ Kind, a Little at a Time

Break Your Goals Down into Steps
We've all heard the old joke, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!" In the beginning, B♥ Kind service works the same way.

Improving dining service can feel daunting at first, but you don't have to do everything all at once. Break down your goals into action steps designed to improve one meal at a time, or even to improve the first 15 minutes of a meal. This technique creates a more workable context for everyone. Identify and celebrate achievable goals, no matter how small they seem.

Encourage each other with that other old saying:

"We can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful."

Mother Theresa

You'll soon be seeing a very large difference in your senior living community.
Table Tip

Springs Nests

Spring Nests
Have you noticed how trendy birds are lately? Maybe it's the influence of Twitter. Bring some feathered friends into your dining room this season with this easy centerpiece.

Simply, line a low, wide pot with artificial greens—or get really creative and grow actual sprouts—to form a nest. Add a pair of artificial birds and a few eggs. Tuck tiny fabric flowers into the edge of the nest. Use additional flower blossoms and eggs around the nest to complete your cheerful tablescape.

Do you have bird-loving residents? Invite them to help assemble the nests and use the opportunity to learn more about our feathered friends. Avid bird-watchers are a wealth of avian information, and what a wonderful opportunity to connect around residents' interests.
Cindy Heilman, Founder, CEO

It's Time for Diet Liberation!

Have you had a chance to review the New Dining Practice Standards by Pioneer Network Food and Dining Clinical Standards Task Force? These standards of practice support individualized nutrition approaches and self-directed living, rather than the traditional diagnosis-focused approach, for residents in our senior living communities. One section that particularly resonates with me is page 12, "Standards of Practice for Individualized Nutrition Approaches/Diet Liberation," because it sets a standard of respect and empowerment for the people we serve. Consider sharing page 12 with your staff and inviting them to talk about how this new approach might change every day working habits in your community. Work together to implement the new standards and inspire each other to adopt higher standards.

And keep reading Kind Dining® Connection! To help your community stay on the competitive edge and educate staff, we will be highlighting key points of the New Dining Practices Standards in each edition.

To learn more about the value of training staff for service improvement and the return on investment for doing so, read Hospitality for Boomers: How to attract residents, retain staff, and maximize profitability. Pre-order copies for your staff today and save 20%!

As always, if I can be of service as you improve the dining experience in your community, please call me or e-mail any time.

Kind Regards,

Cindy Heilman, MS, DTR

Higher Standards, LLC
Hospitality for Boomers

Get Hospitality for Boomers now, save 20%

My new book, Hospitality for Boomers: How to attract residents, retain staff, and maximize profitability is printing right now. This quick read shares a unique service perspective and is full of hospitality tips.

Reserve copies for your staff today and save 20% off regular pricing: $22.95 $18.36 + s&h.
Celebrating the Journey

National Nursing Home Week is Just Around the Corner

It's time to start planning for National Nursing Home Week, May 13th - 19th. This year's theme is 'Celebrating the Journey' and, I'm curious, how will you honor all those who contribute to our nation’s nursing homes – residents, family members, employees and volunteers - at your senior living community?

Drop me a
note and share your ideas.
Building a Bridge to a New Culture of Aging

Pioneer Network Conference

I will be speaking at Pioneer Network's 12th National Conference in Jacksonville, Florida on August 7th or 8th. This year's theme is "Building a Bridge to a New Culture of Aging."

Hope to see you there!
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