Where Better Care is a Family Matter

“Food is healing, enjoyable, and brings people together.” An Interview with Registered Dietitian for EECC, Christine Fitzgerald.

EECC Registered Dietitian Christine Fitzgerald

The daily meals and snacks enjoyed by short and long-term residents at any skilled nursing facility are incredibly important. Better health, both physically and mentally, and longevity of life often go hand-in-hand with a proper diet. We sat down with our in-house Registered Dietitian, Christine, to find out more about the passion she has in her career and how that pairs perfectly with our residents here at Elmhurst Extended Care Center. Here’s what she had to say:

What inspired you to become a Registered Dietitian?

I’ve always had an innate passion for food. I remember rushing home from school to catch the last half of Emeril Live before jumping in to the kitchen to cook dinner with my mom every night. As I became older and involved in athletics, I developed an interest not only in cooking, but in the healing power of food. As a gymnast and swimmer for over 10 years, I was constantly eating to fuel my body and realized that my curiosity towards food was more of a lifestyle than the hobby I initially thought.

Growing up, I was very lucky to have parents who emphasized family meals. Despite our busy schedules, there was always time to sit down together and enjoy a healthy and home-cooked dinner. I learned from a very young age that food is healing, enjoyable, and brings people together. While I didn’t always know I wanted to be a dietitian, I found myself eager to share this love with others and ended up in my first nutrition class.

What things do you take into consideration when planning a menu for residents?

When creating a menu for residents, I prioritize freshness, flavor and variety. I make sure there is something for everyone to enjoy and that our meals are both nourishing and delicious, just as food should be! My go-to when it comes to planning menus is using in-season ingredients to create the freshest and most flavorful dishes possible. I always keep in mind what I would want to eat and strive to make sure the environment is not a barrier against enjoying meals. It’s tough to be away from home. Through physical stress and hospitalizations, many of our residents can feel overwhelmed when they walk through the door.

I’ve found that the quickest way to connect with people is through great food. Taking a little extra time to plan a thoughtful and delicious menu goes a long way towards helping our residents feel at home during their stay.

When a resident has special nutritional requirements, how do you accommodate for those?

Working directly with the residents to fulfill their individualized preferences and nutritional needs is one of the most important parts of my job. The first thing I do is introduce myself to the residents and assure them that their nutritional needs can be met. Typically, residents are eager to discuss meal preferences right away… everyone wants to know what they’re eating! Making that instant connection can really help us get off on the right foot and help new residents feel comfortable. Once the initial interview is in the books, I get to work on communicating needs with my staff and executing requests. With a full commercial kitchen at EECC, we can accommodate pretty much anything!

What are some ways you provide nutritional education to residents at EECC?

Educating the residents is all about individualization. While I enjoy sharing my knowledge of nutrition with others, I recognize that not everyone wants the information. The biggest misconception about dietitians is that we are here to make everyone eat their salad and skip the fries. While a balanced diet is important, it’s not everything. I love inspiring people to have a healthy relationship with food and empowering them to understand there is no such thing as the perfect diet.

With regards to education, some of the residents want detailed information in scientific format. Others prefer a more casual conversation about their lifestyle and ways to achieve nutrition goals at home. I’ve even used food models to help people visualize portion sizes! Nutrition isn’t a one-size-fits all model; Whether it is teaching someone the difference between carbs, protein, and fats, or giving detailed education about dialysis and minerals, nutrition education is intended to best serve the resident and their needs.

Are there ever any circumstances where you work with family members of residents to develop a nutritional plan for their loved one? If so, what does that process typically look like?

Every day! As I described above, I like to meet with new residents ASAP to discuss food preferences and address questions or concerns they may have about their meals. Oftentimes, this initial interview is in the presence of family members and friends. Connecting with the residents’ family members provides invaluable insight from the people who know them best. If a resident isn’t eating well or doesn’t seem to like the food but isn’t vocal about why, in almost every case I’m able to consult a family member to unpack exactly what’s going on.

Whether it’s a missing condiment on the plate, the wrong flavor of juice, or someone who doesn’t like their food to be touching, family members are the best detectives. I often hear that the residents “don’t want to be a bother” to staff so concerns may go unvoiced. We are in business to serve the residents and working with the people who know them the best is absolutely key towards providing excellent care.

What do you enjoy most about your position at EECC?

While I have worked in multiple settings as a dietitian, my time at EECC has already proven to be a wonderful opportunity. My role is both challenging and fulfilling and every day brings about new experiences and opportunities for growth. I love getting to work in multiple settings on a daily basis. Seeing the residents as the dietitian to complete nutritional assessments keeps my clinical knowledge sharp and I get to learn about new trends in science and medicine. Healthcare is very fast-paced and stimulating so experiencing it every day definitely keeps me on my toes!

On the other hand, I have dual responsibilities at EECC and serve as the Dining Director to take on a more managerial approach. I get to work with food safety and sanitation regulations, customizing menus for the facility and I oversee all the procurement and production of meals. Working simultaneously in both avenues is a bit uncommon for a dietitian and has been my favorite part about this role. Every day is a bit unconventional, exciting, and has made me a more well- rounded professional.

Experience the Elmhurst Extended Care Center difference for yourself. Call or stop by today for a tour of our facility!

The Importance of a Certified Memory Care Unit for Your Loved One Suffering from Alzheimer’s or Dementia

memory care unit

Memory care units offer those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia a safe environment with around-the-clock care. While a standard long-term care facility can provide a home-like environment for residents and patients, it’s best to find a facility with a certified memory care unit when considering where to place your loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Memory Care Units Offer Unique Layouts for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients

The physical layout of a certified memory care unit is strategically designed to offer the best environment for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. The design is created with wandering in mind – a symptom common for patients suffering from these diseases – and minimizes symptomatic behavior while also making it easy for residents to navigate around the unit.

At Elmhurst Extended Care Center, our wander management system within our certified memory care unit allows residents to freely move about the floor while ensuring their safety and security in the area.

It’s important that, although wandering is intended to be minimized in a memory care unit, Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are still able to enjoy plenty of movement and stimulation. EECC has designed our unit with two multipurpose areas for dining, visiting and activities. Each area is on opposite ends of the floor, promoting continuous movement and stimulation.

Dedicated, Trained and Experienced Staff Make Up Certified Memory Care Units

As Alzheimer’s and dementia patients require specialized care, it’s important that the staff at your long-term care facility are trained especially for this. Memory care provides intensive, long-term medical care, and as such, the staff in the certified memory care unit is a key factor in the comfortability of your loved one.

Elmhurst Extended Care Center holds our compassionate staff in high regard. They are regularly trained in behavior management in order to maximize each resident’s highest potential. Some of the benefits of our memory care unit include:

  • Developing individualized plans for person-centered care
  • Providing adaptive activities programs focused on each resident’s abilities
  • Striving to reach each resident’s highest potential
  • Encouraging participation in favorite life activities and familiar tasks
  • Assisting family members and loved ones in understanding these complex diseases

Memory Care at Elmhurst Extended Care Center

Through our skilled staff and ongoing training in dealing with these complex and difficult diseases, EECC understands the challenges that you face when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia. We offer a monthly Alzheimer’s and dementia support group along with DVDs and other valuable information that can support and assist you with your loved one and their care.

If you’d like to see if the certified memory care unit at Elmhurst Extended Care Center is the right place for your loved one, schedule a tour today.

Worried your loved one may be developing Alzheimer’s or dementia? Here are 7 signs and symptoms.

Individualized Care Plans Set Elmhurst Extended Care Center Apart from Other Skilled Nursing Facilities

When considering where to complete your short-term rehabilitation following a surgery or the best place to call home for your loved one in need of long-term care, it’s important to know that priority is placed on individual needs, not a regimented ‘one size fits all’ checklist for each person that walks through the door.

We sat down and talked with Noel Tapia, Assistant Director of Nursing and Care Plan Coordinator at EECC, to find out how Elmhurst Extended Care Center handles the individual needs of each resident. Here’s what he had to say:

What do you enjoy most about developing care plans for each individual that comes to Elmhurst Extended Care Center?

I like developing individualized care plans because it lets me get to know my patients and their history. With the diverse population we serve, it’s important to create a care plan specific to the patients wants and needs. I also enjoy creating care plans with the Interdisciplinary team.

How does the process work for putting together a care plan for a new patient or resident?

It starts with the patient’s hospital diagnosis and their current medication list. Each diagnosis and medication have its own plan of care. The patient is also assessed and interviewed for their preference with care and health needs. Each member of the Interdisciplinary team also creates a care plan for their respective department (Social Worker, Dietician, Activities, and Restorative Nursing).

How do you deal with conflicting demands from a patient, their family, and other health care providers?

We do what is best for the patient. We try to accommodate the family’s demands, but if it’s conflicting with the care then we make sure we follow the facility’s policies and procedures. We seldom have issues with health care providers.

Have you ever come across a stumbling block while coordinating care for a patient? If so, how did you resolve it?

There is definitely a lot of stumbling blocks in nursing. As long as nursing staff continues to provide advocacy to the patient and follow the necessary policies and procedures, then the patients get the care they need. Also, talking about the issues with the Interdisciplinary team can help brainstorm solutions.

What do you think sets EECC apart from other skilled nursing facilities in regards to care plans developed for residents?

Our care plan is individualized. It’s not just the care plan coordinator that creates it, but the entire Interdisciplinary team. The care plans are also revised as patient health care needs change.

If you’re looking for personalized care for you or a family member, give Elmhurst Extended Care Center a call today. We’ll discuss how we can provide what you’re looking for in a way that is advantageous for your health, happiness, and comfort.

Celebrating the Holidays with Loved Ones in Nursing Homes

holidays nursing homes

The holidays are a wonderful time of year for so many, but for others, it can be an uncomfortable reminder that they aren’t able to enjoy them like they used to. If your loved one has transitioned from independent or assisted living into full-time care at a nursing home, the holidays can be an extra sensitive time where worry of how they will celebrate or wondering if their loved ones will even include them in their celebrations is often the focal point of their thoughts.

It’s important that our loved ones know and feel that they are still a crucial part of our lives, no matter where they reside. From personal experience in watching our residents and their families over the last several decades enjoying the holidays together, Elmhurst Extended Care Center has come up with three very important ways you can celebrate the holidays with your loved ones in nursing homes this season.

Collect Holiday Cards

While your loved one might not have an entire house to decorate for the holidays now that they’re in a nursing home, getting them into the holiday spirit is easy to do by bringing in holiday cards.

Collect holiday cards from their friends and family and find a special place for them in their room at the nursing home facility. Hang them up on the wall or display them on a nightstand or dresser. Whatever you do, make sure your loved one will be able to easily see and enjoy them on a daily basis.

Thinking of putting together a holiday card yourself? Try adding a family photo to yours this year! Having photos of loved ones on display is always a bright spot that makes residents feel that much more at home when they’re residing at a long-term care facility.

Cook Their Favorite Dishes

Is there a specific meal your loved one always looked forward to each holiday season? What about special desserts or homemade recipes passed down through the generations?

While nursing homes do provide excellent, balanced meals focused on your loved one’s dietary needs, the holidays are a time when family traditions and special meals come into focus. Nursing homes residents often feel they might not be able to partake in those traditions any longer, so bringing in their favorite dishes can really make a great impact.

If your loved one isn’t big on surprises, talk with them before you plan to get together and have them help make a menu for the celebration. That way, you’ll know the food items they’re really looking forward to and can ensure they’ll be included.

Make It a Family Affair

If your loved one was used to large family gatherings around the holidays before they moved to a nursing home, celebrating with just one or two people can leave them feeling sad and alone. Talk with the other members of your family and see if you can plan a time where you are all able to come together to celebrate and give your loved one a holiday season to remember.

Check with your nursing home facility ahead of time to see if you can reserve some extra space the day of your gathering where your loved one and guests can feel right at home in your private celebration.

Whatever you do, make sure to celebrate! Even if you’re unable to bring the normal large gathering together, get as many to join as you can, and make the holidays in a nursing home for your loved one extra special this year.

Are you wanting to plan a gathering for your loved one this holiday season and need to reserve space? Give Elmhurst Extended Care Center a call today!

Interview with Anne, Short Term Rehabilitation Center Patient

Former short term patient, Anne, discusses how EECC’s expert staff at our rehabilitation center helped her after she broke her hip.

When Anne found herself in the hospital after a fall that broke her hip, she wasn’t sure where to turn for her short term rehabilitation care. After choosing to use our rehabilitation center, she found that she received more than just the ability to get back on her feet.

We caught up with Anne to see how her rehab at EECC helped her get in even better shape than she was before.

What procedure or situation occurred that required you to need a rehabilitation center?

I was at home when I felt the urge to use the restroom. I live in a split level and had to go up a few stairs to get to it.

I’m not sure what happened but next thing I knew, I had fallen and slid down a few stairs and was in a lot of pain. I called my son, and he told me to call 911. The paramedics arrived and took me to the hospital.

When I got there, they took x-rays and told me my hip was broken. I was bruised all over.

How easy did you find the process to be in setting up rehab through EECC?

It was extremely easy for me.

Because I was stuck in the hospital there wasn’t much I could do to research where to go. I chose Elmhurst Extended Care Center because they visited me in the hospital and explained what would happen next and what to expect. It was nice because they offered to explain and help me whether I chose to go to Elmhurst Extended Care or not.

They seemed like the only ones that really cared. They just wanted to make sure I understood what was going on and were there to help.

What was your stay like? The staff?

I couldn’t say enough about my stay. First off, the place is extremely clean and well maintained.

It doesn’t smell!

I’ve been to other places to visit friends, and it either smells bad or like too much air freshener. At Elmhurst Extended Care it doesn’t smell like anything. It’s just clean.

My room was nice and bright. It had a big window letting in lots of light which looked out into the neighborhood. I had my own bathroom, fridge, and big screen TV. The room was well decorated.

Although the aesthetics were nice, the staff is really what makes Elmhurst Extended Care Center a hidden treasure. The CNAs were attentive and so kind. They always were smiling and happy to help.

The therapy staff was amazing. They saw me within an hour of me arriving and were there everyday to work with me. Because of them, I am in better shape than before I even broke my hip.

What did you enjoy the most about choosing to go through short term rehabilitation with EECC?

I enjoyed being around so many wonderful and caring people.

I was nervous about going anywhere but when I arrived at Elmhurst Extended Care, my worries went away immediately. The staff cared for me and wanted me to be happy. I could feel I was in good hands.

My son didn’t have to worry about a thing either. I hate being a burden on him, but he didn’t even miss a day of work.

How do you feel your mobility, health, and situation have improved since going through EECC’s short term rehabilitation program?

Like I said before, I’m better now than I was before I fell down the stairs.

I recommend Elmhurst Extended Care to anyone who needs help. If anything happens to me in the future, I’ll definitely go back to see my friends at Elmhurst Extended Care.

If you or a loved one are in need of a short term rehabilitation center that offers much more than just physical therapy, give Elmhurst Extended Care Center a call today!