Unpleasant Meals: Forced to cook themselves for parents in CHSLDs

Unpalatable food served in the healthcare network is prompting healthcare workers to cook home-cooked meals for family members hospitalized or CHSLD residents.

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“It seems that I eat the same thing every day, meals that have no taste and make me lose my appetite,” explains an 81-year-old woman she met in a hospital in Montérégie.

The lady has been hospitalized for three weeks for a hip fracture; her son has decided to prepare home-cooked meals for her so that she can recover the strength needed to get back on her feet. Out of fear of reprisals, she asked them to hide their identities.

  • Listen to the interview with Louise St-Denis on the Marc-André Leclerc show broadcast live via QUB radio :

“I’ve already tasted what they’re served and I had a hard time digesting it,” says the 55-year-old son. So now I bring him one or two meals a day. Sometimes three on my way to get him lunch at Tim Hortons.

Almost daily, then, he arrives at the health facility with a lunch box, goes down to the cafeteria to reheat the meal and takes it to his mother.

“Today pasta with beef and vegetables, beets, a slice of bread and cupcakes,” he explains to his mother.

Beef pasta with vegetables, fresh bread, paté and biscuits.

Photo Clara Loiseau

Beef pasta with vegetables, fresh bread, paté and biscuits.

The pleasure of eating

Without hesitation, the eldest puts her fork in the small plates and eats, finding pleasure, she confides. However, the hospital had brought her a meal a few hours before her, which she hadn’t touched.

Like him, several relatives with whom The newspaper they decided to cook for their distraught beloved.

“My mother didn’t like hospital meals at all, she didn’t eat. So, at one point, I figured I’d cook her meals myself and bring it to her every day. I did it for maybe 180 days,” says Stéphane Harvey, whose mother was hospitalized due to health problems related to a kidney transplant.

Heat dishes with hospital microwaves.

Photo Clara Loiseau

Heat dishes with hospital microwaves.

Not appetizing

On the menu of the sanatorium: soft roasts greased several hours in advance, overcooked and dry meats, excess in the dishes.

As soon as he started preparing her meals, her mother’s behavior changed. “After that, it was day and night. She was starting to eat again,” says the man who lost his mother a year ago.

And in order not to be too burdensome, Mr. Harvey has compromised to eat the same dishes he made for his mother, even if he didn’t always like it.

“I was doing what she likes to make her stronger, and I was eating the same thing because otherwise it would have been too much preparation,” she adds.


For Anik Généreux, these are snacks that he prepares every time he takes his mother to the CHSLD for the five days of respite per month to which she is entitled.

“There are no fruits, it seems that it does not exist. We just give her jellies or biscuits, so I make her compotes, yogurt or fruit because she likes it and it will give her at least one good sweet,” explains this 56-year-old carer.

Sure, m.myself Généreux knows that the meals served to his mother are often not of the best quality.

“But I need my reprieve when she goes to CHSLD, if I have to prepare meals for her on those days, I won’t have any,” complains the one who takes care of her mother every day. .

Important to have good food for health

The pleasure of eating must return to the heart of the dishes served in health facilities, say the experts.

“We must completely rethink food in institutions and not see it as a technical service that must provide nutrients and proteins, but as a cure that has a dimension that only goes beyond the need to nourish the body,” says Nancy Presse, a professor at the University of Sherbrooke and director of the Senior Diet and Geriatric Nutrition Laboratory at the Center for Aging Research.

Because in addition to food, food takes on an increasingly important place in people as they get older.

“It is often one of the pleasures that lasts until the end. When you’re young you eat to eat, but the older you get, the more it becomes a social activity. Food takes on another meaning,” she adds.

question of money

For memyself Press, it is clear that health facilities are doing what they can with the means provided to them.

“We all agree that the meals in the CHSLDs aren’t going to win haute cuisine awards, but they live with food service budget constraints that are really restrictive,” she explains.

“We really need the political will to add money,” he continues, both for meals and for service and accompaniment.

Louise St-Denis, a professor in the nutrition department of the University of Montréal’s School of Medicine, agrees.

“The budget isn’t always there. The money available to restaurant managers is often not very generous and they have to dispose of it with very low costs ”, she adds, while acknowledging that a lot of work has nevertheless been done to improve meals in the establishments. .


Food also plays an important role in health, the two experts recall.

“You have to see nutrition as a pleasure, but also as a treatment, because if you don’t feed people right, there are consequences. People may be less independent, more susceptible to infections, bed sores, skin sores,” explains Ms.myself St-Denis.

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