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Flexible Dining Services

Facilitator Instructions for Starter Exercise

WHAT: This short personalized exercise is a conversation starter as you consider how to expand flexibility in your dining services. It gives staff a personal understanding of the importance for each of us of our eating routines. As staff reflect on their own needs, they better understand their residents' needs and see how the change will benefit residents. Then they can think through how to make it happen.

WHY: Change is hard. Successful change requires discussion about why and how. Use this discussion to find out how the staff closest to the resident, who will implement a new approach, think it will work best. Have on-going discussions as the change evolves.

HOW: This guide includes discussion prompters to use after the personalized experience first to draw out staff's experience and reflections, and then to hear their ideas on how to do it. Allow time for each discussion. Hear from everyone. Ask for responses from quieter people. It may be tempting to brush off staff members who are openly skeptical, but putting into play major changes requires that concerns be welcomed as a contribution to the effort's success; get to the root of the concern, and note it as an area to keep an eye on.

RESOURCES: Toolkit Tip Sheet and Video Clip on Flexible Dining Services

Entire Toolkit and Webinar Series available at Pioneer Network store.

Preparation: Review tip sheet and video clip on Flexible Dining Services

10 - 20 minutes, depending on discussion time



To give staff a personal awareness of how important their own food preferences are to them so they understand how important food preferences are to their residents.


In pairs
share the following:

What do you like to eat and when throughout the day?

Ask for volunteers to share their preferences with the whole group.

People will describe varied patterns. Some people "graze" – eating throughout the day. Some have big breakfasts, others light breakfasts, some big dinners, others light dinners. Favorite foods will also vary.

As they describe their pattern, ask how it is for them when they can't follow their routine. People will talk about ways they don't feel like themselves or get thrown off and irritable if they don't eat the way they are used to.

Point out that while there was a wide range of preferences for when and what to eat, there was a common experience of irritability when those preferences weren't met.

In pairs: share ways that they accommodate residents' dining routines now.
  • What works well?
  • What doesn't work well?
  • What would be an easy change to make that could do a lot of good?

Share in a go-round: Ask each pair to share one item that works well, one that doesn't, and one suggested change. Then ask the next pair to do the same. That way you'll hear from everyone. Keep going around until all the ideas are out. Note on the flip chart.

Begin the discussion on how to make it happen.


Where should we start?

What would we need to make this work?

Download Facilitator Instructions for Flexible Dining Services (PDF)

Starter Toolkit Home          Step One          Step Two          Step Three          Self-Assessment
Prepared by B&F Consulting for Pioneer Network's National Learning Collaborative on Using the MDS as the Engine for High Quality Individualized Care. Funded by The Retirement Research Foundation.