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Caring for Parents, Keeping Them Healthy

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Eating and the Older Adult

It's a good idea to accompany your mother to the supermarket occasionally to point out new products and to make sure she is shopping wisely. Encourage her to read labels for salt content, sugar, and other health considerations. If she resists, urge her to at least heed fat content. Generally, none of us should be taking in more than 30% of our daily calorie intake in the form of fat, and of that, no more than 10% should come from saturated fats. Olive oil is a good source of unsaturated fat.

Frozen foods, which are processed right after they are harvested, often retain more vitamins than "fresh" vegetables, which may sit on shelves for days before getting to the supermarket.

When ordering packaged meals from local agencies, ask for extra vegetables. Also, consider supplementing the meal with a homemade side dish.

Would a small refrigerator or a mini microwave in the bedroom or family room make it easier for Dad to have nutritious snacks all day long?

If shopping is a problem, maybe you can fit an extra freezer in Mom's home somewhere that will allow her to stock up.

Does your grandfather need help with cooking? Contact Meals on Wheels of America to find a local program that will deliver free meals to his home. All adults older than sixty are eligible. Note that Meals on Wheels doesn't deliver on weekends, so you'll have to make other arrangements. Can a neighbor help? How about a local church or other religious organization? Or ask a local favorite restaurant to deliver a couple of meals.

If your father has vision problems, put liquid in a see-through cup or glass so he can see the liquid.

If your mother's on a special diet, write the day's menu on a blackboard and ask her to check each item off as it's consumed.

Fax a weekly shopping list to your parent's local market and ask for it to be delivered. You can even pay for it over the phone with your credit card.

Find easy recipes that allow your parent to cook with canned and packaged foods -- they combine quickly and are quite tasty. There are a variety of cookbooks in this category. Mom might enjoy Desperation Dinners, by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross; for Dad, how about A Man, a Can, a Plan, by David Joachim.

There are cookbooks available with easy recipes suitable for special diets (diabetes, heart disease), cooking for one, or microwave cooking. Browse the bookstore or search Amazon.com for the one that will suit your parents' tastes.

When you call, casually ask your parent to tell you what he has been eating. "What did you have for dinner last night?" is better than "How's your appetite?"

WebMD Medical Reference

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