Wilton Meadows staff helps fragile patients

What does being certified as a feeding assistant at Wilton Meadows Rehabilitation and Health Care Center mean?

For residents, it makes mealtime something to look forward to.

It takes time and training. Wilton Meadows has just graduated its third group of staff members as certified feeding assistants.

Judie Ahmed, director of Clinical Services for TransCon Builders, the parent company of Wilton Meadows, developed the curriculum for state approval in 2009.

“There are now 15 cross-trained staff members who’ve been certified. This includes staff members in recreation, administration, social services, as well as nursing, anyone who has contact with our residents,” she said.

To improve the mood of mealtime, feeding assistants learn how to engage with the resident, socialize and encourage conversation.

“It’s not just how much or how quickly a meal is eaten,” Donna De Rocco, coordinator of Special Services, explained. “You don’t ever want the resident to feel rushed. Mealtime isn’t just about calories. It’s encouraging residents to enjoy eating, to stimulate their senses. Our culture connects mealtime with conversation. I’ve studied biochemistry and I know that genuine caring while feeding makes mealtime a dignified experience. One resident who wasn’t able to speak responded with smiles and ‘mmm’ sounds of pleasure.”

Joni Tartaglione, a therapeutic recreational assistant, said, “The training opened up my eyes. I can see what a difference it makes to feed someone lovingly, to be concerned. It can increase the appetite. Often, a person can actually forget how to eat. But once you find out why they’re not eating and you make mealtime a social occasion, there’s a total difference.”

Feeding assistants become so observant they can detect the slightest change in a resident’s condition, which can be most helpful.

The third group of Wilton Meadows staff members who have been certified are Rick Ahmed, Alyssa Gemma, Joni Tartaglione, Cynthia Frantasik, Bridget Reid, and Dona De Rocco.