Nfld. & Labrador

Salty, sugary foods changed after senior's complaint

Relatives of a diabetic resident of a long-term care facility in central Newfoundland are relieved their complaints led to quick action.

Family of a diabetic resident of a long-term care facility in central Newfoundland are relieved by the quick action taken after they complained about the quality of food presented to her.

Ruth Scott, a diabetic, found that she was too often served meals that conflicted with her nutritional needs. (Submitted by Doug Scott )

Ruth Scott, 87, who is also a stroke survivor, found the food served during her first seven months at Carmelite House in Grand Falls-Windsor to be too often laden with salt and sugar.

"She wasn't happy with the food ... My mother is a diabetic and I was convinced that this food just wasn't proper." said her son, Doug Scott, who spoke up for his mother after she complained to him about her meals.

"It became fairly regular that she was served french fries, a hamburger patty, bologna with french fries [or] one scoop of mashed potatoes."

Scott said her mother previously received excellent meals while she stayed at a facility in Lewisporte — an institution, he noted, that had its own kitchen with meals tailored to patient needs.

Scott said he was upset that his mother would often receive canned, syrupy fruit instead of fresh fruit.

Scott wrote a letter on his mother's behalf to Health Minister Susan Sullivan, and also wrote to the Grand Falls-Windsor Advertiser. A meeting with a dietitian was arranged almost immediately afterward, and Scott said his mother has been delighted with the changes.

Ruth Scott, shown in her room at a home in Lewisporte, complained about the quality of food at Carmelite House in Grand Falls-Windsor. (Submitted by Doug Scott)

"[The food] was inappropriate and I must say, to their credit, they're reacted very favourably," he said, adding a dietitian took an hour to review his mother's history and needs.

"[They went] over all kinds of menu choices and what she liked and didn't like, that she was getting too much of this and not enough of that," he said.

Central Health CEO Karen McGrath said the authority moved quickly when it was alerted of Ruth Scott's concerns, but noted that the menu will not always have everything for everybody.

"Is fresh fruit offered every day? Probably not. Occasionally I would suggest to you canned fruit is offered," she said.

Residents of Carmelite House are presented with two meal choices per day.

"These are people's homes, so there is a certain element of choice here," McGrath said.

"Yes, if people were eating hamburgers everyday that's not a good food choice, but in fact hamburgers are only offered a couple of times in a 28-day cycle."

Meanwhile, Doug Scott said the experience underscores the importance of food quality in the health-care system — something that he says warrants greater public attention.

"What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you say 'hospital food'? It's usually bad," Scott said.

"One of the good things about going to the hospital and being fed the food is that in a few days you can go home. But this is my mother's home, and this was the point that we wanted to make."