“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” -Alan D. Wolfelt
Our nutrition needs change as we get older. Metabolism slows down, but we need more nutrients. Just at the time when we need to be eating healthier, our eating habits often worsen. Sense of taste diminishes, so we eat extra sugar and salt. Medications and medical conditions can change appetite (and nutritional needs).
Also, many elders live alone. One study showed single elders ate 2.3 fewer vegetables/day than those with partners. It seems like too much hassle to cook for one. And, it may become difficult to deal with meal planning, shopping, and cooking. Then, just imagine if you’ve never done all that before. Many older Dads (and Moms) turn to unhealthy snacks and frozen meals.
Here are three ways you can help:
1. Make delicious and nutritious accessible.
Home cooked meals and fresh, healthy snacks are delicious and way more nutritious than convenience foods. But, the hassles (meal planning, shopping, chopping, washing dishes) can be a barrier. Here are some great resources to make eating healthy, whole foods easy.
Grocery delivery: It’s becoming easier to get healthy ingredients and snacks without leaving home. We often recommend Shipt for grocery delivery. Amazon will continue to expand its options and range. With their recent purchase of Whole Foods, all kinds of healthy food might soon be available at your door. Your local grocery and specialty markets may also deliver. Publix, Kroger and others offer delivery in certain areas.
Personalized assistance: You may be able to help your aging parent if you live locally. Perhaps you can shop for your groceries and theirs at the same time. You can provide healthy snacks and easy-to-prepare meals (or make extra meals they can heat up).
Unfortunately, many of us don’t live nearby or barely have time to do this for ourselves. In that case, one of the best gifts you can get for you and Dad is a “personal assistant”. Home care companies can provide a caregiver to do shopping, organize the pantry/keep it stocked, and help with other errands. Give Dad the tools to make good nutrition easy.
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2. Provide meals he’ll love.
The next big barrier is the cooking. Does Dad know how to cook nutritious meals? Would he take the time to do so? Can he make something tasty? Is he bored with the limited meals he knows how to make?
One of the best options is professional meal preparation. You can hire someone to come in once/week or a couple times to prepare meals for a few days. Or, someone can come in regularly to create meals on the spot. An EasyLiving caregiver can even make special family recipes and come up with great ideas based on Dad’s likes and dislikes. We train our EasyLiving caregivers in senior nutrition so they know just how to help.
Some Dads don’t mind cooking but need help with planning and putting the meal together. For these Dads, meal kit delivery services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron might be perfect. They provide the ingredients and step-by-step instructions. It’s easy to create delicious meals. These services offer many options for all tastes and diets. Here’s an overview of meal kit companies.
There are also services that provide a fully-cooked meal. We’ve used Dinner Done in Tampa for several clients. Some online services are popping up too, like Top Chef Meals. Your local area may have Meals on Wheels (there’s often a wait list if you need free/reduced price meals). Our team also taste-tested Mom’s Meals. Unfortunately, the taste of the frozen meals and Meals on Wheels usually doesn’t compare to all the on-demand services available now.
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3. Add the most important ingredient: company.
Depression from loneliness and social isolation is a significant cause of appetite loss in the elderly. Even seniors who aren’t depressed often eat less (or less healthy) when alone. Meals are more than fuel. Food has emotional connotations. Sharing a meal makes it taste better. Studies show that widowed seniors eat more vegetables when they have a companion to share meals.
Your area may have senior nutrition programs at dining sites or senior centers. These programs often provide transportation.
Is your loved one missing luncheons or going out to dinner with friends? Senior transportation services can keep them connected. Even the occasional outing with friends can be great for emotional and physical health.
One of the most overlooked benefits of hiring an in-home caregiver is companionship. Imagine having someone cook mouth-watering food in the home and share mealtime conversation. Food tastes infinitely better this way. Give us a call at 727-447-5845 to learn more!