What can you expect in the way of delicious meals, expertly prepared, using fresh ingredients, top quality meat, fish and poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables? Or should you expect institutional cooking on a par with or above or below most hospitals and college dormitories?
I find that the non-profits seem to win on all counts while the corporate owned places have two main concerns... filling up the beds to max occupancy and cutting costs, which includes, cutting staff and salaries to those who do the "grunt" work (CNAs, kitchen staff, housekeeping, etc) and buying lower quality food as well as less quantity (had one local place borrowing eggs from their sister facility because they "ran out". How the heck do you run out of eggs in a health facility???)
When my bro chose his ALF in Palm Springs there was one that had a pool and had what they called fine dining. Visits with residents showed they loved the food. What they didn't have was what the OTHER facility had in terms of beautiful grounds to walk on, and some other perks. So while one place may concentrate on one thing, another has other perks and it simply is a matter of choosing, if you are so luck as to HAVE a choice, what matters most.
Ask to go to dinner and lunch. It will tell you a lot.
of vegetable option 🥗 that would have made her life (and mine) easier.
What it boils down to, most people... even myself, tire of the meal environment they have day after day and nothing seems to appeal. When my father was in an AL then the NH at the same facility, we enjoyed having meals with him because the choices were very good. To hear my father talk, after he had been there a while, they didn't offer any thing decent to eat.
A good example is when I worked in the admissions office at a small private Christian Middle/High School with day and boarding students. Our food service was always raved about because students got unlimited servings from a hot bar, salad bar, dessert bar, beverage bar and even a sandwich bar where you could make your own simple peanut butter sandwich. I often heard feedback from parents how pleased their children were at the variety and quality of lunch compared to the school they had moved from. Meals were included in the tuition and outside food was not allowed except for a few students with extreme allergies. Months later, some parents would begin asking special permission to bring lunches for their children from fast food places because their children no longer were pleased with the food provided.
Often aging and certain conditions can affect taste and smell so I am sure in many cases the food does begin to be less appealing as time goes on especially with seniors.
A funny story from my time at the school... there was a very sweet boy who just never took responsibility for his homework, etc. As a discipline, the principal required him to spend his lunch period in my office doing his work and a lunch was provided for him. After a while his mom told us he had said it wasn't so bad because he was getting a "teacher's lunch" and it was better! We told her, there is no such thing as a teachers lunch, the lunch lady was putting his lunch together from the same selections... a sweet lady who wanted to be nice to this poor boy in detention! We had to tell her to stop being so nice and provide a lunch with simple sandwich, sides and dessert. It wasn't long he began taking the discipline serious! So, most complaints are because of prejudices and perspectives of the food put in front of us.
My parents lived in a corporate owned (Brookdale) AL and the food was slop. Their rent was constantly being increased bc corporate facilities look to do just that: nickel and dime the residents to death while cutting corners via quality control. Food is a big quality control area in which to do so. I moved them out of there and into a privately owned AL where the rent was lower and stayed the same. The food was a much higher quality but not as you described bc frankly, that's a bit of a reach in my experience with managed care facilities in general. Their AL had better than average food with a large menu choice and no limit on what you could order. I ate there many times and enjoyed the food. When they put on buffets for holidays, they were always outstanding, same with sit down meals for events. The chef was very good. Michelin trained? Nope. Just keeping it real, as should you.
SNF food.....one was inedible entirely, the other mom was in for rehab was pretty decent, the Lifecare dad was in for rehab was mediocre at best. Hospital food describes it.
You'd have to go try the food at these places yourself to get a peek at what a meal looks like. Breakfast is usually the best, imo. Some meals are great, some are awful. Keep a realistic outlook is my suggestion, and expect A LOT OF COMPLAINING from the senior. It's the law. And also it depends on what you mean by "senior housing" as there are TONS of different types out there nowadays.
My Dad had a medium size apartment at a well known chain where he paid $5k per month for rent. He had a full size kitchen, and he was able to have supper in the menu styled restaurant. The meals were excellent.
My Mom was in her final months at a local nursing home. Sadly those meals didn't look very appetizing.
As mentioned earlier here, you can tour the facilities, and most of them offer you lunch as part of the tour.
My dad was in 3 facilities, 1 had school food meals from the 70s, it was awful. 1 had restaurant dining, you ordered what you wanted and it was freshly prepared, it was amazing. Then the last one was a small facility that did family style meals, it was good, just no choices if what they fixed wasn't to your liking.
Most facilities will let you come in and have a meal in their dining room. I recommend doing that. The place that had restaurant dining charged $6 if you bought a voucher from the business office, this allowed you to dine with your loved one.
Seeing and eating is the only way to know what the food is like.