In nursing homes, the pleasure of eating is gone

If you don’t let me eat what I want, I’ll throw myself into the Saône! “ Graziella Giroud has never forgotten these words from a resident of nursing home. “She was a Lyonnaise who liked good food. Cheese, cold meats, but also sweets, sodas… The problem was that she was diabetic and it must be said, a little obese ”, remembers this psychologist specializing in geriatrics.

→ INVESTIGATION. “Inedible”, “tasteless” … In the hospital, meals do not satisfy the sick

What should I do? Forbid her any deviation, at the risk of damaging her morale, or letting her devour sausages and pâtés, even if it means threatening her health? The establishment chose the second option. “The director was for the shared risk philosophy. While monitoring her blood sugar, she was regularly let go in her electric chair to do her shopping in town and bring back whatever pleased her. “

Pleasure. A notion that has become abstract for many residents, used to being served plates that are not in tune with their desires. According to a study conducted by the Nutrition Institute and the Research Center for the Study and Observation of Living Conditions (Crédoc) among 96 people living in institutions (1), only one in three dishes meet their expectations. Most of them eat out of habit (50%), or even under duress (27%). And for three quarters of them, the pleasure of eating has simply vanished.

More personalized dishes in small structures

A phenomenon less widespread in small establishments, according to Graziella Giroud. “While large structures call on service providers, more family-run establishments often have a chef on site who offers more personalized dishes, because he knows the residents and their tastes. “

The chefs nonetheless face many constraints. As the entry age into nursing homes is increasingly late – 85 years and 2 months on average, according to the latest Drees report – many residents no longer have the physical and mental faculties to eat as before. – more than a third suffers from a neurodegenerative disease. To facilitate chewing and avoid false routes, it is often mixed or very cooked that the food is presented to them. “In the name of food security and nutritional balance, we no longer take the risk of life”, deplores Graziella Giroud, while acknowledging that “The service providers have made a lot of progress on the appearance of the dishes, by trying to vary the textures, the colors …”

→ CHRONICLE. The sad taste buds of nursing home residents

Another enemy of pleasure is time. For organizational reasons, residents must eat at the appointed time, often very early – 6 or 7 p.m. – and sometimes with the help of a caregiver who does not have time to linger. “We have to go fast. Open your mouth, Madame Martin. A spoon, then another, and let it jump! Who would want to eat under these conditions? “, indignant Graziella Giroud, evoking the case of a nursing assistant who had taken the habit of throwing part of the meals of the residents in the trash to ” go faster “. A “Abuse” for which the institution is primarily responsible according to the psychologist, nursing homes being faced with a chronic lack of staff.


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