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Caring for Parents, Keeping Them Healthy

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Eating and the Older Adult continued...

Maybe your parent or grandparent just hates eating in the kitchen. Try moving to the dining room or even a space outdoors.

Don't ever wrap dentures in napkins, assuming you will retrieve them after the meal. Chances are they'll be thrown out.

Freeze small containers of your leftovers from home to share with your parent. Label them with the date and contents.

Freeze sauces, soups, and bouillon in ice cube trays so that individual servings can be popped out and heated.

Make sure that your parent or grandparent has access to lots of healthy, easy-to-eat snacks, such as berries, bagels, pitas, cheese, raisins, crackers, energy bars, or apple, melon, or orange slices.

If Mom's appetite is lagging, find out if she has a taste or yen for something special. Experiment with old recipes to make them more palatable and "legal" (use lactose-free milk, salt and sugar substitutes, ground meat instead of cubed, or yogurt instead of cream, but first consult a doctor about the interaction of these substitutes with any medications). There are tons of books on the subject and most have recipes. Consult them.

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.

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