As a caregiver, it’s important not to underestimate the value of intentional meal planning for the senior in your care. What does that mean? It means planning meals that combine highly nutritional foods with the personal tastes of the senior while incorporating dietary restrictions that illness or chronic disease may create. It also means that you include the senior in the meal planning. Even dementia patients know what tastes good and what doesn’t. Encouraging the senior to help in meal planning creates a positive activity between senior and caregiver and gives them delicious meals to look forward to during the week. LivHOME caregivers can help to plan meals, buy groceries, and cook for seniors.
Here are some tips that we find most helpful for meal planning:
Find expert support and help.
If the thought of meal planning fills you with frustration, find help. Many senior centers offer nutritional support. Hospitals have dietitians for their patients and diabetes programs have educators that provide dietary support. If the senior in your care is being discharged from the hospital, ask specifically for nutritional support. The services exist but may not be pro-offered unless you ask. Post-hospital diet is very important for a successful recovery. Newly diagnosed diabetic or cardiac patients need to learn new dietary guidelines to remain healthy and avoid hospitalization. When caregivers ask for help, everyone learns, and a neutral person, like the staff at LivHOME, is providing the new guidelines for eating.
Aging taste buds and other senses may reduce the joy of eating. That’s why it’s time to get creative. Although high salt levels should be avoided in most cases, numerous other spices can make food smell and taste good. If medications have changed the senior’s mouth or tongue, flavorful smoothies, puddings, and egg dishes taste good without being irritating. Read recipes with the senior in your care; if it sounds good to them, chances are it will taste good to them too.
Cooking incorporates many positive activities for seniors; it is stimulating cognitively, encourages fine motor skills, and is enjoyable socially. Caregivers can spend an afternoon cooking a week’s worth of meals with a senior. If time is short, LivHOME caregivers are trained in planning, shopping for, and cooking nutritious meals.
Don’t forget the benefits of grazing.
Leftovers and snacks are a great way to encourage seniors to eat healthfully. If delicious treats are available in the refrigerator and kitchen cupboard, then the senior can eat tiny meals throughout the day. They can taste good and be highly nutritious. A cup of soup warmed in the microwave can be a power packed lunch. Cut up pieces of cheese and whole grain crackers are a nutritious snack.
Encouraging a senior to eat can be fun. Create a calendar that is placed on the front of the refrigerator with fun pictures for each meal. Place the same image on a food label, and the senior may smile while also eating well each day of the week.