The tables were bare, except for paper place mats and residents wore large, plastic bibs. At Christie Gardens, all tables, even in our dementia unit, had linen table clothes and napkins. Our bibs were fabric, and although not beautiful, they looked better than the stark plastic ones. I asked about tablecloths, and was told such a thing would create too much laundry.
I went home feeling smug. We did much better than that. Our dining rooms looked elegant.
Bibs were a necessary evil, but...
Sometimes I wonder how how often, when caring for our elders, we accept things because everyone's doing it, has always done it and says it has to be done that way? Probably every communal care situation across the country has bibs for residents who can sometimes spill food when they eat. I can hear the voices--"We're not changing them after every meal!" "Think of the laundry!" (They said that about tablecloths, too.)
I understand the issues, but they look so ugly, it hurts me. They are insulting. (I slop on my clothes, and no one makes me wear a bib.) Infantile. (Babies wear bibs.) UGLY!
Bibs have bugged me for years, but I couldn't come up with a solution. Once I sewed one for a lady that looked like a blouse and vest. She loved it, and it was classy, but not practical. I wasn't prepared to mass produce, Also, it was distinctly feminine--what about the men?
Then, culture change began at Christie Gardens, and we started to look at things in new ways. Accepted practices could be questioned--and what was best for the resident took precedence over accepted practice. We looked at new and creative ways of serving our elders. Everyone had a voice.
I am thrilled to tell you as a result of an initiative I have jokingly dubbed "Project Death to Bibs," we will have no more bibs at Christie Gardens as of Monday. Our residents will be asked if they would like to protect their clothing, and if that is the case, they can use the linen napkin folded beside their plate. It can be placed in the lap or tucked under the chin, and for those who might need a little extra protection, small clips will be available to hold it in place. It will have the air of fine dining.
This is a small step in our culture change journey. It's an outward sign of the growing, pulsating life among us as we learn and discuss and capture the vision. It's also a huge step in our culture change journey, as we share the excitement and courage to be different, for the sake of our elders.
To change our world.