The unsavory food served in the health network is prompting caregivers to cook homemade meals for family members hospitalized or residing in CHSLDs.
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“It seems like I eat the same thing every day, meals that have no taste and that make me lose my appetite,” explains an 81-year-old woman met in a hospital in Montérégie.
The lady has been hospitalized for three weeks for a broken hip; her son has decided to prepare homemade meals for her so that she can gain strength as she needs to get back on her feet. For fear of reprisals, he asked to conceal their identity.
"I have already tasted what is served to him and I had trouble digesting," says his 55-year-old son. So now I bring him one or two meals a day. Sometimes three while picking him up lunch at Tim Hortons. »
Almost daily, he then arrives at the health facility with a lunch box, goes down to the cafeteria to warm up the dish and takes it to his mother.
"Today it's pasta with beef and vegetables, beets, a slice of bread and small cakes," he explains to his mother.
The pleasure of eating
Without hesitation, the eldest pricks her fork in the small dishes and eats while finding pleasure, she confides. However, the hospital had brought her a meal a few hours earlier, which she had not touched.
Like him, several relatives with whom Le Journal spoke have decided to cook for their distraught loved one.
“My mother didn’t like the hospital meals at all, she didn’t eat. So at some point, I thought I was going to cook his meals myself and bring him every day. I did that for maybe 180 days,” says Stéphane Harvey, whose mother was hospitalized due to health issues related to a kidney transplant.
On the menu of the health establishment: soft roasts greased several hours in advance, overcooked and dry meat, redundancy in the dishes.
As soon as he started making meals for her, her mother's behavior changed. “After that, it was day and night. She was starting to eat again, ”says the man who lost his mother a year ago.
And so that it wouldn't be too much of a burden, Mr. Harvey would compromise to eat the same dishes he made for his mom, even if he didn't always like it.
“I was doing what she likes to get her strong, and I was eating the same thing because otherwise it would have been too much preparation,” he adds.
For Anik Généreux, these are snacks that she prepares each time she brings her mother to the CHSLD for her five days of respite per month to which she is entitled.
“There is no fruit, it seems that it does not exist. We only give them Jellos or biscuits, so I prepare compotes, yogurts or fruit for her because she likes it and it will at least give her a good dessert, ”explains the 56-year-old caregiver.
Of course, Mrs. Genereux knows that often the meals served to her mom are not of the best quality.
"But I need my respite when she goes to CHSLD, if I had to prepare meals for her during those days, I wouldn't have any," laments the one who takes care of her mother every day. .
The pleasure of eating must return to the heart of the plates served in health establishments, argue experts.
"We must completely rethink food in institutions and not see it as a technical service that must provide nutrients and proteins, but as a care that has a dimension that just goes beyond the need to nourish the body," says Nancy Presse, professor at the University of Sherbrooke and director of the Laboratory on Seniors' Diet and Geriatric Nutrition at the Center for Research on Aging.
Because in addition to food, food takes an increasingly important place in people as they age.
“It is often one of the pleasures that lasts until the end. When you're young, you eat to eat, but the older you get, the more it becomes a social activity. Food takes on another meaning,” she adds.
For Ms. Presse, it is clear that health establishments are doing what they can with the means given to them.
"We all agree that meals in CHSLDs will not win haute cuisine awards, but they live with budget constraints for food services that are really restrictive," she explains.
"It would really take a political will to add money," she continues, as much for the meals as for the service and the accompaniment.
Louise St-Denis, professor in the nutrition department of the Faculty of Medicine at the Université de Montréal, agrees.
“The budget is not always there. The money available to food service managers is often not very generous and they have to dispose of them with very limited costs,” she adds, while acknowledging that a lot of work has however been done to improve meals in establishments. .
Food also has a big role to play in health, remind the two experts.
"You have to see nutrition as a pleasure, but also as a cure, because if you don't feed people the right way, there are consequences for that. People can be less independent, more susceptible to infections, pressure sores, skin sores,” says Ms. St-Denis.