Pendleton said some of the favorites are baked potato soup, Willowdale’s homemade meatloaf, and its Mississippi Mud dessert. Liver also has been added to the menu by popular request. For breakfast, biscuits and gravy are popular. Every meal includes dessert. Pendleton also said they try to be flexible and work with their residents to give them what they want to eat. If someone just wants a sandwich at a meal instead of one of the entrees of the day, they will work to oblige that request. There also is a refrigerator in the small room adjacent to the dining room in which residents’ families can store favorite food items for their loved one.
While the food itself is obviously important, dining at Willowdale Nursing and Rehabilitation Center is more than that. Pendleton said they also focus on such things as the presentation of the food, having music playing in the dining room, and having the table settings and room decor add to the experience as well. “We always say people eat first with their eyes,” she said.
Pendleton acknowledged that nutrition has become a more important issue in recent years. Most of the menus used at Willowdale come from its corporate office where they have been prepared by a nutritionist. The company also has a registered dietician visit the facility once a week. That person has to approve and sign off on any menu alterations made by the Willowdale staff.
Portion control is another aspect managed by Willowdale’s staff, with portions varying depending on the resident. “A lot of people say we have too big a portion,” Pendleton said.
While nutrition and portion control are
important, Pendleton said they are also sensitive to giving residents what they want within reason. She said her staff gets to know what each resident likes or does not like. Sometimes the request is for a steak.
The staff also has to be conscious of residents on dysphagia diets—people who have swallowing issues. There are different levels of food textures which those resident can or cannot eat.
Willowdale is currently feeding about 35 residents three times per day, but it also serves as the meal preparation site for the New Holstein Senior Citizen Center on Park Avenue and for the local Meals on Wheels program. The Senior Center serves about 30 meals on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and the other two weekdays Willowdale staff works to package Meals on Wheels meals for home-bound individuals.
The food service staff at Willowdale also prepares and serves meals for the occasional special event at the facility, as well as for visiting family members and guests. They encourage those people to dine with their residents, asking only an hour’s notice if they plan to eat there.
On a wall in the dining room is a plaque which indicates that Willowdale Nursing and Rehabilitation Center has won the corporation’s Golden Platter Award each of the last four years for its food service quality. The odds are good that more plaques will be added in the years to come because, as Pendleton said, “We really promote our dining experience.”