Yancey Thomas is reimagining the dining experience for residents as the Food and Beverage Supervisor at Sedgwick Heights, a Loretto community located on James Street in Syracuse.

“I am one of the leaders of the dining room team, but it’s really more than a team; we are a tight-knit family who wants to create the best possible dining experience for residents.”

Yancey began working at Sedgwick in 2012 as a dining room server. As a Loretto employee, he took advantage of the Certified Home Health Aide (CHHA) Training Program, a paid training opportunity for people new to the healthcare field. After he earned his CHHA certification, Yancey served as a CHHA at Sedgwick and was the first CHHA Supervisor, a position he created with administrators to help build the strength of the Sedgwick CHHA program. He was recommended for his current role as Food and Beverage Supervisor based on his history of Loretto leadership.

“Since I have been here for so long, I have learned to see things through the eyes of a resident. Many of them long for that familiarity of home, and they want that here. I try my best to create a home-like experience so it’s not just a meal but an occasion to look forward to. It helps keep the spirit and morale up for all.”

Yancey’s goal is to make the Sedgwick dining experience feel like home by creating a bistro-like environment that is attractive. The changes he has implemented have not only affected residents, but employees who take pride in the recent upgrades as well.

For example, all agreed that the beige dining room walls looked bland, and were “too institutional,” so working with Loretto administrators a new color scheme was selected to brighten up the space.

Changes both big and small like this have helped Yancey and his team upgrade the residents’ dining experience. For example, they ordered new utensils with wider grips for resident comfort and plates and bowls that were reminiscent of items you would find in your kitchen cupboard rather than a nursing home table. They also changed the seating arrangement, switching from assigned seats to assigned tables to give residents a choice.

“These little changes really affect the overall dining experience for each resident. They appreciated the changes and liked having their voices heard during the process. For example, we tried using napkin rings to make it a more formal dining experience, but they didn’t like that because it took too long to get their silverware out. Instead, they wanted to return to how we did it previously, which was fine.”

Yancey is looking forward to more changes coming to the dining room in 2024, with planned construction and design changes to create a bigger, brighter space for the residents.

“I consider myself pretty lucky; I love nursing, and I love being a dining supervisor, and in my role, I have the best of both worlds—seeing people I have cared for being pleased with their dining experience. The best part of my job is hearing their appreciation and knowing I’m making a difference.”

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