Nfld. & Labrador

Macaroni, ketchup and chicken not an acceptable meal, says family of senior in long-term care

The dinner devoid of vegetables has ignited social media wrath, and prompted a meeting with management.

Photo showing the meal shared, commented on hundreds of times on Facebook

Ryan Fifield says his grandfather-in-law has dietary restrictions, but should still be getting some sort of fruit or vegetable regularly. (Paula Gale/CBC)

The family of a senior who lives in a long term care home in St. John's hope changes are ahead for his meals, after a photo of one of his unappetizing dinners ignited widespread criticism online.

On Sunday, Maria Fifield posted a photo on Facebook of the plain macaroni with ketchup on top, with seven pieces of cut-up chicken breast alongside, that was served to her 82-year-old grandfather for dinner.

"I would feel horrible feeding this to my dog," she said in the Facebook post, which has been shared and commented on more than a thousand times as of Tuesday morning.

Ryan Fifield, Maria's husband, says his wife's grandfather can't eat greens due to dietary restrictions, but that doesn't mean he shouldn't get any sort of fruit or vegetable.

"He's not being fed balanced meals and he's not getting proper nutrition," he told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"No vegetables, no fruit, no nothing."

Fifield said it costs around $2,700 a month for his grandfather-in-law to live at Saint Luke's Home in St. John's, and that expense should equate to adequate nutrition. 

They have a menu, and on paper the menu looks pretty good, but the problem is he doesn't always get what he's supposed to be getting.- Ryan Fifield

"Absolutely [it] should be better. If you're paying that kind of money to be looked after, you would think that a well-balanced diet would be part of it," he said.

"The staff there is great. Don't get me wrong, we're not complaining about the staff, they're really good. They treat him well. The only problem we have is the food."

Fifield's grandfather-in-law is in the early stages of dementia and has had two strokes, so isn't particularly verbal, Fifield said, and the family takes him out of the home to get him nutritious, home-cooked meals, at least some of the time.

'It's pretty upsetting'

When he does ask for fruit, Fifield said the family has to go and get it, and he might get a banana or, more often, a fruit cup.

"It's pretty upsetting," Fifield said.

An example plate of a balanced meal, according to the recently updated Canada's Food Guide. (Health Canada)

"They have a menu, and on paper the menu looks pretty good, but the problem is he doesn't always get what he's supposed to be getting."

The family has a meeting scheduled Tuesday afternoon with management at Saint Luke's Home, and Fifield said they're hoping some changes will result.

Working with families

Eastern Health said in a statement that it could not comment on any individual patient's case, citing privacy concerns.

But the statement did say the health authority is "committed to providing nutritious and balanced meals to residents of long-term care homes, while adhering to individual dietary restrictions."

The statement added that Saint Luke's Home has a kitchen that prepares meals on-site, in an effort to create "a comfortable, home-like environment for those who reside there."

"Kitchen staff work to ensure that all meals are prepared safely and consistently by using standard recipes and ingredients, and there is a clinical dietician on-staff who is responsible for resident nutrition."

Eastern Health added that it's important to work with families of residents on all matters of care, including meals.

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from the St. John's Morning Show

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