Chicken Piccata and the Four Fs

Chicken Piccata and the Four Fs post page

By Debi Tyler NewsomDecember 16th, 2021

Chicken Piccata and the Four Fs

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by Debi Tyler Newsom, OTR/L,

PAC Client Relations Director

What makes a place comfortable? What makes it homelike? What makes an establishment one you would come back to? What makes a place somewhere you would like to live?

The focus of the Organizations Corner is typically care organizations and healthcare facilities that meet the needs of those living with dementia. This month, let’s broaden the scope and consider all types of organizations as we think about environments and spaces. Environments are like diets—you have one, whether you choose it or not. Your home, the restaurants you go to, your church, gym, grocery store, and yes, hospitals and care facilities, all have environmental properties that make them inviting, or a place you’d rather avoid.

Our senses give us basic information about the appeal of the environment—you can probably add your own examples:

What do you see? First impressions are typically based on what we see. In fact, visual cues are the ones we use most. Is there a pleasing décor, pleasant lighting and color, things that are easy to locate, new items that are appealing, good signage for directions?

What do you hear? Does background noise, music, or distressed voices make it difficult to hear others or concentrate?

What do you smell? Are there pleasant or noxious odors, smells that surprise you?

What do you touch? Are there surfaces that are easy or difficult to walk on; are seats comfortable?

What do you taste? What is the appeal of drink and food?

I recently shopped at a small local grocery store in Minneapolis. There was a colorful arrangement of yellow mums, orange pumpkins, and birch logs by the entrance. We walked past an area of floral arrangements and balloons, following our noses to the bakery where they were removing fresh ciabatta rolls from the oven. The deli manager greeted us as we passed, and we zipped up and down the isles to fill the shopping basket with two unusual varieties of olives from the olive bar, and the ingredients for our chicken piccata, consisting of four perfectly plump lemons, a jar of capers, and a package of thin-sliced locally farmed-chicken breasts, and then of course some dark chocolate covered graham crackers to nibble on in the car. As we stepped up to the express check-out lane, the customer ahead of us realized too late that she was in the wrong lane. The cashier told her, Don’t worry ma’am, stay right there, we can open another line. We pushed our cart to the car, parked just outside the entrance, and declined the offer of the store employee to help put the bags into the car, although he did circle back to take our shopping cart into the store for us. As we tucked ourselves into the car, all I could say was, Wow, I wish there were more stores like this!

Thinking of that simple but satisfying experience, I realized that it was more than my senses that were pleased. I reflected on Teepa’s Four F’s that go beyond using our five senses and deal with the feel of a place. That store was functional, friendly, familiar, and forgiving. Items were placed in the locations I would expect (functional). Staff were friendly and welcoming, patient, and helpful. I was more impressed with the cheerfulness and attitudes of the employees than the décor (friendly). It had a homey welcoming feel, like stepping into my grandmother’s kitchen, or poking around in my sister’s pantry (familiar). Mistakes made did not cause humiliation but were smoothed over with grace (forgiving). It left me with a feeling of great anticipation for the next time I can shop there.

As we generalize to other settings, the same principles apply. You don’t need to have dementia to enjoy spending time in a particular setting. With brain change, better outcomes occur when we anticipate and meet a person’s wants and needs. That person could be a customer, a visitor, a consumer, or a resident.

Whether a hallway lounge in an assisted living facility or any establishment we frequent, how do the Four Fs apply to make it a place of comfort and appeal? What can family members, customers, and employees do to improve the feel of it and create a sense of satisfaction in spending time there? Are there things done well that should be recognized, things that could be modified? Perhaps a suggestion box, a note to the manager, a staff meeting to discuss ideas? What space could you think about first? You could always start with a trip to the grocery store.

Contact us today at PAC Training to learn how your organization or establishment can become more functional, friendly, familiar, and forgiving…to all who enter. Learn more about Teepa Snow’s Four Fs with the streaming video, Designing a Supportive Dementia Care Environment.

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