A Patient Advocate's View

Gumming it the tasty way!

Many of my clients, who are in their 80’s and 90’s have been eating real food without any teeth. Some say they’ve lost their dentures, usually in the hospital, and some say they just don’t like them.


My own mother lost her teeth in her 30’s. In those days, the dentists believed that removing the teeth would help her chronic swollen glands. It didn’t do anything for that or the sinus problems she continued to have the rest of her life, but it did change the way she ate. In fact, I can hardly remember her eating anything with us at the table, except Chow Mein. When Burger King opened in the neighborhood, that became her favorite place to eat out. I think that may have been because the grilled burger broke up easily. She also liked spaghetti, eggs and French toast. When she became very weak with Myelodysplastic Anemia, I tried to get her to eat more vegetables. I made them in a stir fry, the way I love them. She pushed them away and said, I don’t eat that kind of stuff.  Now, I realize that she may not have been able or comfortable chewing it.

I firmly believe that fresh whole food will improve our health and increase our vitality. I recently saw a Facebook post from a company that has taken real food to a new level for people who need some help chewing.  Image

After I commented on their Facebook page that I loved their idea, they contacted me to talk more about their service, which is for assisted living facilities and nursing homes. I suggested that I would like to share the information with my contacts and they said that I could borrow anything I wanted off their website, So, here’s a little something to chew on:

Grind Dining™ is an innovative food services process designed to restore the dignity and enjoyment of mealtime for individuals with cognitive, neuromuscular and chewing disorders.

Consider an special entree of turkey with gravy, herbed stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and green beans – exactly the kind of sumptuous mealtime offering marketing studies have shown greatly increases resident satisfaction and drives higher occupancy in senior living communities.

But what about those with cognitive, coordination, muscular and other disorders that make using the utensils for this kind of menu item difficult or impossible? To serve these residents the same meal, they’ll need personal assistance. Or they’ll have to settle for unsatisfying, prepackaged finger food.

Grind Dining™ changes that. We start by using our “patent-pending” process of grinding the cooked foods on that day’s menu in a way that retains their taste, texture and flavor. And we train your staff to present the same meal in an alternative way, so that impaired residents are able to feed themselves without assistance.

The Grind Dining™ Method presents these transformed menu items in a visually pleasing manner and is as fully nutritious and as easy to digest as the same offerings on the regular menu, but without the need for utensils. In short, we make finger foods that actually taste good and that you would proudly serve to all your residents.

More importantly, Grind Dining™ creates a sense of inclusion for mentally- and physically-challenged residents – as well as the families who come to visit them – by allowing these important residents of your facility to enjoy the same delicious food your staff is serving to the rest of the community.

Image Thanksgiving Before  Image After Grinding


Chef Sarah Gorham

Chef Gorham holds a M.S. in Hospitality Management and Tourism and B.S. in Hotel and Restaurant Management from the University of Wisconsin-Stout

She has 23 years of experience in hotels, restaurants, catering, and hospital food service with 15 years of management experience in this field. Positions held include executive chef, sous chef, food production manager, co-founder/chef, and culinary consultant. Former employers include Marriott Hotels and Resorts and Two Chefs, Inc. She opened 4 hotels for Marriott including the Marriott Marquis, Atlanta, Georgia.

She also has 19 years in higher education as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Culinary Arts Department Chair and Chef Instructor.

Chef Stone Morris

Chef Morris has over 24 years of food service experience in restaurants, catering, country clubs, and five-star luxury hotels. The positions held include hot and cold food banquet supervisor at the Marriott Marquis, co-owner of an award-winning vegetarian restaurant Two Chefs, garde manger chef for The Ritz-Carlton, and line chef at The Buckhead Diner. Stone became a Certified Working Chef by the American Culinary Federation in 1981. She continues to work as an accomplished food-stylist for print and film. Clients include Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Southern Living Magazine, and Williams-Sonoma.


Here are some more eye pleasing food choices:



Here’s an excerpt from their blog. It’s the perfect example of what I always tell people who ask me how to get started in the Patient Advocacy business. Follow your passion!

How we got started…

“When you passionately believe in an idea that does not yet exist, then you CREATE it!”

Sarah and I had this idea that memory impaired and cognitively challenged residents in long-term care facilities deserve better choices when it comes to what they eat. Both of us had seen too many dining rooms where residents who had trouble eating were relegated to being served fried nuggets, spoon-fed pureed food, PB&J sandwiches that were torn apart by caregivers and other forms of finger food. All this while the residents at other tables had a choice of delicious-looking meals that they could eat on their own.

It just isn’t fair, we thought. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

The task of finding real dining alternatives for these residents was more daunting than we anticipated. The challenge, we discovered, wasn’t just in finding finger food – pigs-in-a-blanket, peanut butter-stuffed celery sticks, meatballs, those choices were always available. But creating something that was both nutritious, visually appealing and similar to what residents were getting on the traditional menu meant we had to rewrite the finger-food cookbook.

That’s when I remembered my Grandmother Bubbie’s tradition of using a food grinder to make gefilte fish, grinding and poaching fish into balls. If it worked on this time-honored Jewish culinary tradition, might it work on other, everyday meals?

So we employed Sarah’s grandmother’s old food grinder in our kitchen, added some attachments, and were off to the races. While experimenting with different meals, we heavily researched how cooked and ground meat was not only nutritious, but for many – especially the elderly – it was easier to chew and digest.

Plus, this was personal. Sarah’s mother had been living with dementia for four years. She passed away last summer at the age of 91, just as we completed our second pilot project at a Cobb County assisted living facility.

Having worked in restaurants, commercial kitchens, cafeterias and institutional settings, we knew the finished product would need to taste great AND but be served with a sense of flair. Memory care and cognitively impaired residents deserve the same presentation as other residents. We transformed selections from the main menu and created a palette for these meals that looked every bit as good – if not better – than what everybody else gets.

So began the Grind Dining experience. Much has been learned since we created those first few meals. We’ve put our technique to work in several locations and have put together a training program, toolkit and other professional services that can be used just about anywhere with any patient population.

We’ll be updating this blog as frequently as we can to let you know how that’s going and to present some interesting stories, research and other news that you might find useful. We invite you to share your experiences too. If you have a family member, friend or loved one who lives in a residential facility that might need our help, please let us know. And drop us a line on how you think all of us can do better at ensuring these folks can joyfully anticipate eating again.

One last note: We’re calling this eating with Ida because we both had close relatives with that name. So we borrowed it from them to stress Grind Dining’s strong belief that everyone should be able to dine with Independence, Dignity and Accessibility.


I look forward to sharing some of these meals at the residences I visit soon.  Maybe a buffet at a SUN or PESID meeting might be on the menu too.




April 27, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

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