This question might fit better in Interpersonal Skills SE. Please comment if you believe it should be asked there instead.

Someone works full-time as the only Registered Dietitian (RD) for a 130 bed long-term care/ short term rehab (mostly rehab) facility. Here is their situation:

I've got an amazing full time [Certified Dietary Manager] and we really kick butt at trying to please our residents. I keep getting told that other facilities in the area wouldn't even entertain some of the stuff we do for folks. I'm starting to see why... BUT we have so much dang weight loss. The food at the facility is not bad. I eat it every day.

Family members are blowing up my phone because their mother didn't get their two prune juices this morning (our food supplier is on the struggle bus) or that dad didn't get an additional pb&j with his (full) lunch tray.

How far should this RD go for food preferences/requests? And how should family members be handled?

Edit: I did not quote myself. This is not me; I cannot answer "you" questions. E.g., "how are you..."

Edit: (By @Ertai87) The weight loss is desired and is not an indicator of undernutrition.

  • 1
    Is the weight loss good or bad?
    – HenryM
    Jun 18, 2021 at 14:50
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    I'm not sure this is appropriate for this site. In my mind handling customer complaints is part of the job, not a "workplace issue". Jun 18, 2021 at 15:12
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    We usually don't answer questions that are "part of the job". For example we don't deal with questions on do status meetings for software development, because they are part of the job even though they are also "issues in the workplace". But I'm open to community input. Jun 18, 2021 at 15:19
  • 2
    I can see how "dealing with customers", "dealing with clients", and "dealing with bosses" is adjacent enough to all fit under more or less the same heading, but there's just not enough information here to answer this question well, and the OP has already told us that no further information will be forthcoming.
    – Ben Barden
    Jun 18, 2021 at 15:28
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    You say in comments that "weight loss is desired". The problem description sure seems to indicate that it's a problem. And if the goal is weight loss, it seems odd that you'd be agreeing to add food to a full tray. Jun 18, 2021 at 15:35

4 Answers 4


To professionally handle requests you should have procedures in place that channel communication in the method and frequency that you want. For example:

  1. Create a menu that incorporates options for any reasonable requests you have been seeing. Then it's easy to communicate the preferences/choices to your kitchen.
  2. Set guidelines for the communication channels that can be used to make requests. Instead of using your cellphone it should go through an email system or some kind of ticket system for example. If you also provide a phone number it should be an official business line, not your cell.
  3. Set clear requirements on how far in advance special orders/changes need to be placed.
  4. Don't reply right away to text messages that are low priority. This will train people to think more before they contact you and to contact you less based on how you prioritize.

Might also be a good idea to:

  1. Make sure there's accountability for when mistakes are made. If a staff member was told to put 3 items on a tray and they only put 2, can they keep doing that every day without evening knowing it? There should be some kind of feedback that is accessible to the people actually doing the grunt work.
  2. Maybe give rewards to staff members who make fewer mistakes?

But now that you are already accepting text messages for every random 'I need a juice box' comment you have to ease out of that by giving people enough advanced notice of a policy change.


Only promise what you can deliver

From the language used, it seems like someone was promised two prune juices but did not get them or was promised an additional pb&j but did not get it. If you need to pass the complaints on to the food supplier, then do so. Or dump them and get one that is not "on the struggle bus" if you can.

You are seemingly not managing expectations properly.


I just saw this comment:

In the US, for a facility with 160 residents, the charitable interpretation is that weight loss is desirable especially for elderly in LTC. "Percent of adults aged 20 and over with overweight, including obesity: 73.6% (2017-2018)

If a relative of mine were in a long term care facility, I would be concerned about them losing weight if not informed that was an intended goal. So that would increase my urgency when requesting additional food. For workers at the long term care facility, this might just be a weight loss plan. For the people who sent their relatives there, this could easily seem like the neglect that you often find in LTC facilities.

Do these people know this is the intent of your food program?

  • 3
    In addition a distinction can be made between the entitled/standard meals (almost always delivered) and extras/adjustments which are best effort and may not be available some days/weeks.
    – Brian
    Jun 18, 2021 at 15:26
  • This. Setting expectations is part of the job of being a professional. You can never meet every expectation, so be clear about the ones you meet. If you exceed those, make sure the people know it's not regular service, but a one-time favor which you might not be able to meet again depending on circumstances.
    – Edwin Buck
    Jun 18, 2021 at 17:41

How to professionally handle family members expressing complaints over resident food choices?

First, before engaging with these family members, know the company policy regarding food choices and know it well.

If unsure about the policy ( or there is no formal policy ), speak to the manager and ask them for guidance.

Once you have a policy in place and know it well, you address the family member's concerns based on the established policy. If policy is not being met, you emphatically apologize to the family member and take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the issue does not happen again.


It sounds like your friend is working for a rehab clinic for weight loss, but the family members of residents are complaining that the residents are not getting enough to eat. I wonder what got these people to a position where they need rehab for weight loss in the first place, it certainly begs the question doesn't it...

Anyway, here's what I suggest your friend to do:

  1. Send a blanket notice to all interested parties (residents, families, staff, everyone) about the food supply issue that you are experiencing. Tell them it's out of your control, you're working to get everything back to normal ASAP, and so on. That should at least stem the tide of that issue. Rationing without explanation in a care facility is a no-no, but people will probably understand a bit more (maybe not completely) if they know it's a supply chain issue.

  2. If the issue is dietary, e.g. you are serving the residents appropriate meals but the families are complaining about the amount of food anyway, kindly (at least kindly the first time, once you've done it kindly then you can start doing it not-kindly) remind them that your facility is a weight loss rehab facility, and your practices are carefully curated so that the residents will lose weight. Adding additional food to their diet will slow down their weight loss, which is not what they're there for; they're there to lose weight, first and foremost.

If this does not stem the tide of complaints coming in, then the first thing to do might be to cut off the direct line to your friend, by instituting some kind of voicemail + callback system, or some kind of online request ticketing system, or something of that nature, to allow your friend to do something else other than deal with complaints. For families that are being particularly problematic, you may want to report them to upper management and ask upper management what to do; if the resident is there to lose weight, but the resident themselves nor the family of the resident do not want to lose weight (by complaining about the resident losing the weight), then perhaps (with approval from management) this facility is not the best place for the resident and they should be discharged, with a note that you did your best but the resident was resistant to losing weight (in case of a liability claim thereafter if the resident later has a serious medical issue related to their weight).

  • I read it as though residents are getting enough to eat. I also wouldn't interpret failing to give an extra juice box one time as rationing. Instead family members are complaining about human mistakes here and there from picky food requests. Lastly, my best guess is that it is physical rehabilitation (i.e., physical therapy) common in LTC facilities. A large proportion of elderly do such "rehab."
    – adamaero
    Jun 18, 2021 at 17:20
  • That is not the way I read your OP. You may want to get more information from your friend about exactly what it is they do and where exactly it is that they work.
    – Ertai87
    Jun 18, 2021 at 17:39

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