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Caring for Parents, Keeping Them Healthy

(continued)

Eating and the Older Adult continued...

If your loved one is having trouble gaining or maintaining weight, pack his diet with liquid calories. Fruit juices, milk, and milk alternatives such as soy, rice, and nut milks are high in nutrients and calories and are much less filling than solid foods. Smoothies, yogurt shakes, and protein drinks are a little more filling, but may still make a good meal alternative.

Respect your father's tastes. If he's hated yogurt all his life, don't start feeding it to him now just because he's less able to resist.

A water filter makes a great gift for an older parent or grandparent.

Four or five smaller meals during the day can be more manageable than three large ones. This approach has the added benefit of keeping blood sugar levels more even throughout the day.

If your parent has vision problems, use the "clock" method of serving food: the main dish is right in front of him at "six o'clock," the starch dish is farthest and directly opposite at "twelve o'clock," and so on.

When family and friends call and ask what gift they can bring, suggest prepared foods. (If your parent gets Meals on Wheels deliveries, save the goodies for the weekend.)

Use plastic bibs at mealtime.

"Dad flipped when he saw Mom come at him with a bib! He was furious and refused to wear it. 'I'm not a baby,' he screamed. So the next night when we sat down to eat, all of us -- the kids, me, my husband, and his parents -- wore bibs. We all wound up laughing about it, and Dad admitted that it wasn't such a big deal after all. We promised never to make him wear it in restaurants, unless, of course, he ordered the lobster."
-Vonda Giraldo

It's OK to bring a special meal to a restaurant for your parent and ask to have it microwaved for you, just as long as everyone else is ordering off the menu. Waiters and waitresses want to help you; tell them what you need privately, to avoid embarrassment. And a good chef, if he's not too busy, can accommodate anyone. Show your appreciation, and tip accordingly.

Dry food can be difficult to swallow. Use sauces generously, but learn to make healthy versions.

Use flexible straws.

For those who refuse regular meals, keep healthy snacks (fruits, nutritious cookies, cut-up vegetables) available around the house. Finger foods are best. Be creative -- but not overbearing -- in your coaxing efforts.

Try using children's nonspill cups with covers or sports drink containers with a straw.

Make mealtime more special by using fancy plates and napkins.

For some, it's easier to cut food with scissors than a knife and fork.

If Mom can't cut her meat any longer, avoid embarrassment by cutting it for her in the kitchen before you serve.

WebMD Medical Reference

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