Encouraging Good Nutrition
Helping your care-receiver develop and maintain a healthy,
well-balanced diet can be a considerable challenge, especially if
youíre an adult child taking care of an aging parent.
As a body ages, the digestive system is more prone to heartburn and
constipation. Dental problems may make chewing painful. Some
medications suppress a personís appetite or promote weight gain.
Depression can bring on a change in appetite. Dad may simply not
care about food. If Mom has memory loss, she may forget to eat or
may think she has eaten. Finances may be tight. Some older
people, after paying rent and utility bills, have little left over
for buying food.
It can also be difficult to eat properly when youíre alone. Itís so
much easier to skip a meal or nibble on less nutritious foods when
no one else is there.
And then, too, we each develop our eating habits over a lifetime.
While we may know about the basic food groups or the food guide
pyramid, that doesnít mean we always follow those guidelines.
Changing lifelong habits is very difficult.
As the adult child of an aging parent, you can encourage your mother
or father to eat well. This doesnít mean being pushy or
disrespectful. It doesnít mean ignoring a parentís wishes. In fact,
the more your care-receiver is involved in the process, the more
likely it is to succeed.
first step may be to talk to your loved oneís doctor and ask for the
help of a nutritionist who can tell you what he or she specifically
Your care-receiver may have to keep a daily journal of exactly what
he or she eats. (The results can be surprising, but we would
probably all be surprised if we kept track of what we ate each day.)
A nutritionist will recommend an appropriate diet ó low salt, low
sugar, or low fat; high in fiber or calcium; and so forth. Encourage
your loved one to keep this diet. When the family gets together,
make sure that foods on the diet are included in the menu. Donít
serve your loved one food he or she isnít supposed to have.
with the pharmacist to find out if any of your care-receiverís
medications would react negatively to particular foods (like milk,
careful with vitamin pills. They arenít a catchall that makes up for
poor eating habits. Itís possible to take too many vitamins. And
in mind that some older people find it easier to eat six smaller
meals throughout the day rather than three regular-size ones.
food preparation as easy as possible for your care-receiver. Freeze
small portions that can be heated in the microwave. Make sure the
food looks appealing.
out local community resources to see what kinds of meal delivery
programs are available. Maybe your parent would like to go to a
ďnutrition siteĒ at the local senior center and have a hot meal in
the middle of the day. Help arrange transportation if needed.
that no one likes to eat the same foods day after day. Encourage
your loved one to eat a variety of foods within the prescribed diet,
and make sure your care-receiver gets the items he or she prefers.
grocery shopping, realize itís easy to fall into the trap of buying
only ice cream or cookies or some other single food because ďThatís
all she wantsĒ or ďThatís all heíll eat.Ē Like all of us, your loved
one would prefer to live on a single, favorite treat; like all of
us, he or she needs nutritious food for the best health possible.
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