One of my favourite things in life is helping people. Whether it’s helping my mom with projects around the house, cooking meals at home or working on construction projects with my Nonno. I am half Italian and half Greek; food is associated with every celebration. When I say every celebration I mean it, birthdays, weddings, soccer goals, even my very first loose tooth and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My career allows me to combine helping people and food.
Presently, I am working on my Bachelor of Applied Science at Ryerson University. I graduated from the Food and Nutrition Management program at Humber College and went onto working at a long-term care (LTC) facility. This is where my passion for nutrition blossomed.
My first day at the LTC was very memorable. I was getting a tour of the facility and on the Alzheimer’s floor all the residents were trying to pinch my cheeks. I felt like a boxer, dodging all their attempts. This was the only floor I didn’t’ want to be assigned because of the environment and the unpredictable nature of the disease and lo and behold this is where I was
stationed. It was a very overwhelming experience for me and at first, I didn’t think I could do it.
After learning my role as a dietary aide and climatizing myself to the environment and residents I decided to make a concentrated effort to build bonds with the residents and get to know them beyond the diet roster. Many of the residents came from different walks of life, countries and
religions. This was a great opportunity to learn from the residents and offer them some social support. I spent my breaks sitting and listening to the residents. They were fascinating. I was surprised at how easily they shared their life stories. I heard stories about World War 1 and 2, what life was like in their native countries and one resident described what it was like to be a
food manager 30 years ago. During this experience I promised myself I would not allow myself to become jaded and to find humor in what was going on around me.
There was one resident that I will never forget, lets call her Lids due to confidentiality reasons. Lids would always follow me while I was working, try to hold my hand and hug me. At first, I didn’t understand why she was doing that, but soon realized that she thought I was her grandson. When I entered the room, her face lit up. It was a weird feeling because obviously I
wasn’t related to her, but I embraced it. She spoke broken English and Turkish and was hard to understand at times. Google translate was invaluable as it helped me communicate with her in her own language. When I first started trying to say Turkish phrases, she would always laugh as
my pronunciation was probably off. By putting this effort into Lids, I saw an improvement in her behaviour and her food consumption which bettered her health. She helped me enhance many life skills such as patience, communication and being more understanding towards others. I really enjoyed my time with her.
Overall, Alzheimer’s residents have more to offer than people think. We just need to be able to put the effort in, so we can better understand them. Working at the LTC has given me purpose and confirmed that I want to help people nutritionally. My end goal is to become an LTC dietitian, so I can continue to help people in a more clinical role.
The Ontario Home Economics Association, a self-regulating body of professional Home Economists, promotes high professional standards among its members so that they may assist families and individuals to achieve and maintain a desirable quality of life.