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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Caring for Parents, Keeping Them Healthy

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Eating and the Older Adult continued...

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 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?"

If Mom is passing up making the meals she once loved because "it's just one person," get her a small wok and a cooking-for-one cook-book. Schedule visits at mealtimes so she'll have an excuse to cook.

If asked, the grocer might break up packages to sell smaller quantities to your parent, like a half-dozen eggs, two potatoes, or just a few slices of bread (the grocer can use the rest of the loaf to make sandwiches).

Ultra-pasteurized milk that comes in cardboard cartons has a very long shelf life. Just make sure your parent chills it before drinking and refrigerates it after it's opened.

If your loved one takes a long time to eat, arrange for him to start his meal before everyone else.

Be especially patient at mealtimes; older adults often eat much more slowly than what you may be used to. Try to minimize distractions at mealtimes, and don't bring up stressful subjects.

"We usually have dinner with my grandmother on Sunday nights. It's nice, but sometimes she can go on autopilot, where instead of having a conversation, she just has a long monologue, a riff on everything. You can't get a word in edgewise. That can be frustrating, but as my father pointed out, she spends a lot of her week alone, bottling up thoughts and ideas, and so when she gets a chance to unload, she needs to let it all out."
-Ilene Klausner

A person who is easily confused might have an easier mealtime if you serve one course at a time and clear each one away before serving the next.

A solid-color tablecloth, as opposed to a patterned one, will minimize mealtime distractions.

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