I’m pleased to introduce Casey Little as our guest blogger today. She will be commenting on her experiences working in a dining room in a facility for older adults. Casey Little is a second-year occupational therapy student at Thomas Jefferson University working on her combined Bachelor’s to Master’s degree. She is a certified Primary Caregiver for older adults and has four years of experience working in long-term care and memory care Geriatric facilities working in the dining room and activities departments. While working in these facilities, Casey experiences how the environment impacts the person’s functioning in their daily activities and believes the environment is an important factor that contributes to a person’s independence and ability to age in place.
The dining room is an important part of the daily running of any facility. Throughout my time working in a dining room in a nursing home, I have observed various aspects of the layout of the room that make meal time challenging for the residents and the staff.
The dining room at my facility is a large room that is longer than it is wide. There are two single doors to enter- one towards the front of the room and one towards the back of the room. Four circle tables are pushed to the outer perimeter of the room as far as possible so that there is just enough space for a resident to fit in between the table and the wall. Additionally, there is one rectangular table that is set up so that the residents sitting at that table can look at the courtyard garden outside through a floor to ceiling window.
However, because the room is longer than it is wide, when all the residents are at the tables in their wheelchairs and there are walkers throughout the room, it leaves a small aisle between the tables that only allows for one resident using a wheelchair or walker to walk through at a time. It becomes difficult to maneuver through the room safely when it is in use for both the residents and the staff. Also, the base of the tables are very wide which makes it difficult for the residents who use wheelchairs to get close enough to the table to eat comfortably without the foot pedals and wheels of the chairs hitting the base. Similarly, the diameter of the tables is too short to accommodate multiple residents using wheelchairs at once; there is not enough room under the tables for them to fit. When the majority of residents use wheelchairs, removing the foot pedals to get closer to the table becomes a storage issue. Placing items on the floor invites falls for all in the space.
To improve the space, it would be beneficial to have tables with a longer diameter and a smaller base to accommodate the amount of space that wheelchairs take up underneath the table so the residents can sit closer to the table and eat independently. This is an important aspect to consider as there are many residents that need to eat and not enough nurses to be able to feed all of them in a timely manner. Additionally, finding a balance between the dimensions of the room and the intended furniture would increase the space for navigation between tables and make sure it is enough space to accommodate multiple individuals with wheelchairs and walkers. Achieving this balance would also make the job of the staff easier as they assist in serving food and feeding residents in need of that kind of assistance.