Making the best choices when it comes to food and nutrition can be challenging at any age but even more so when you are older.
Appetites decrease, intolerances increase, it gets harder to chew and tastes change - what was once your mom or dad’s favourite meal will no longer be something they enjoy.
It can sometimes be frustrating to try and come up with meals that are both nutritious and something the person you’re caring for wants to eat. But what’s most important when caring for an Elder is that you take their preferences into account.
Sure, you don’t want to give your diabetic dad chocolate for three meals a day, but it is important to ask him what he’s in the mood for and try to come up with a balance of healthy and appetising. Choice is the foundation of person-centred care that extends to nutrition and mealtimes.
Here are a few simple tips to help you make the best food choices for the person you’re caring for, and even turn it into a meaningful way to engage with them on a daily basis.
Approach – Often mealtimes become the measure of time and comfort is taken in the routine that it brings, this is particularly true for people with dementia. You might be caring for a grazer, someone who needs five small meals throughout the day. Or maybe your loved one would prefer one larger meal, surrounded by two smaller snacks on either end. Asking how they would prefer to enjoy their meals, provides them with involvement and what feels like management of their eating habits.
Portion control - Appetites generally diminish as we get older, we don’t need as much energy as we used to, and we don’t usually take on as much physical activity. We sometimes fall into the trap of dishing huge portions to try and entice the Elderly to eat but often, the opposite happens. As a rule, serve smaller meals packed with high quality nutrients. Slow cooked meals, softened in texture, keeping all the nutrients in the cooking, are a firm favourite. Here’s a fabulous recipe for bone broth to try that’s both rich in nutrition and gentle on the digestion at the same time.
Balance – The importance of quality nutrition can’t be underestimated as we age. Our bodies rely on food for fuel and a poor diet can result in constant fatigue, low moods, and impact the efficacy of medication. If you’re caring for a ‘fussy’ eater keep your expectations realistic. If they have one nutritious meal a day with two smaller meals that contain a fruit and/or vegetable, you are still making progress. And don’t forget the occasional treat that can make the world of difference for the person you’re caring for.
Inclusion – What are your favourite foods? And what memories do they bring back for you? Including your favourites and asking the person you are caring for about their favourite meals, including a nutritious version thereof, will no doubt be a hit and bring back a sparkle in their eye and warm memories that will be regaled over lunch or dinner.
Caring for a loved one can be overwhelming. Be sure to consider your own nutrition needs and remember that you don’t’ have to do it all alone. The CareCompany team is made up of exceptional carers and registered nurses who can offer you the best advice and support.