When you think of assisted living communities, food is not always what comes to mind, but it is a vital part of the quality of life for seniors. Food is nutrition and comfort. It is a necessary component of health at any age, but it can also be a topic of conversation, connecting people across the table—if it’s done right. Weatherly Inn puts a lot of thought into its food and, as a result, has some of the tastiest meals you’ll find in Tacoma-area assisted living communities.
“There are three areas we focus on when it comes to food: quality, service, and atmosphere,” says Alex Bunn, President and CEO. There are many ways Weatherly Inn addresses these—full-service meals from staff who know their residents, continuous dining service so food is always fresh, room service for those who can’t or don’t want to leave their rooms, and fancy meals and music for special occasions—to name a few.
Beyond that, Weatherly Inn has made some recent improvements to both its retirement living and memory care dining rooms to enhance residents’ experiences. To start off, long-time dining services staff member, Kourtney Nelson, received a promotion to Memory Care Dining Services Coordinator. Kourtney brings to the table 17 years of experience in the culinary and hospitality industry and 10 years at Weatherly Inn. She started working in senior living communities as a teenager before coming to Weatherly Inn in 2007. While working at Weatherly Inn, she earned her master’s degree in management and leadership. Kourtney has overseen an improvement process, elevating the food program in quality, service, and atmosphere.
Memory loss can affect a person’s ability to eat, impacted by a lessened sense of taste and coordination, so accommodating a wide variety of needs while providing stellar quality can be tricky. But with creativity and purposeful planning, food can remain the highlight of the day. “Providing enjoyable eating experiences is our priority, while keeping in mind individual needs,” explains Alex. “We know that food connects us to our past and is something to look forward to each day. By offering variety, quality of ingredients, and carefully-designed menus, our food is special; and it makes people happy. Our residents are excited about the food, and we’re always learning and improving what we serve.”
Designing a great food program for those living with memory loss takes skill, vision, and the grit to make it happen. Not only are preferences catered to and special diets accommodated, but also they are brought together in the ambiance of a home. “We believe in treating everyone equally regardless of limitations,” says Kourtney. “If we do something for our retirement living residents, we want to do something similar in memory care. For example, we work with our chef to serve the same variety of entrees to everyone.”
“One exciting thing I started was improving the memory care dining rooms,” says Kourtney. “We now use table cloths on a daily basis and centerpieces on the tables. I worked closely with our ownership and design team to make the setting more inviting. We brought in new dishware that brightens up the tables. It’s a fresh, new look. We want to make sure we offer our best throughout our community.”
“We give careful attention to the details on every plate. Food can often have more impact than you might think,” she adds. “As memories fade, a good dining experience can help us remember the past. Our team uses these positive connections to make each resident’s day. Strategically spaced snacks, baking in the kitchen, or even an ice cream social can do wonders to lift spirits.” Who doesn’t smile at the smell of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies? You can’t overestimate the importance of food. Despite added challenges for memory care dining, meals can still be the highlight of the day. Weatherly Inn is making sure everyone has the opportunity for a positive dining experience.
Weatherly Inn is unique: it’s family owned, family operated, and local. Decisions can be made quickly, and the owners put a high priority on treating everyone like family, providing an environment that feels like home. Weatherly Inn has locations in both Tacoma (253-752-8550) and Kent (253-630-7496). For more information about either location, visit Weatherly Inn’s website.