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Caring for Parents, Keeping Them Healthy


Eating and the Older Adult continued...

Your parent should never lie down right after a meal -- that is the most common cause of indigestion. (Eating too fast is the second most common cause.) Make sure Mom sits or stands for at least an hour after she eats.

Many medications leave an awful taste in the mouth that is far worse than anything you can imagine. They can make sugar taste like salt, and some favorite foods become completely inedible. Be especially patient during this time as you try new things to see what works. In the meantime, a lollipop may help your loved one after he's eaten something distasteful. (Don't give sucking candies to anyone who might easily swallow them whole.)

You can get someone to come to the house just to feed meals to your parent. Contact your Area Agency on Aging.

Even if Mom isn't making use of the local senior center, she can attend every day just for meals. If salt is an issue, there are a bunch of flavorful seasoning substitutes on the market.

"I bribed Mom to eat toward the end -- it was the only way I could get her to take anything. I actually gave her a quarter for every meal. The funny thing is, I forgot all about this. Then, after she passed away and we were going through her bedroom, I found jars of quarters under her bed! It all added up to over $150, which we donated to the local food bank, which is exactly where I knew she'd want it to go. It helped give us closure to know that the money that helped feed our mother would now feed others."
-Brenda Bienvenuti

There are tons of special utensils that can make eating a lot easier; a combination fork and knife for one-handed eating, a tilted spoon for someone with hand problems, or a two-handled mug for easier drinking are available from the many suppliers of special-needs items. You can also buy plate guards that keep food from sliding off. B Independent offers a wide range of such products.

Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus all incorporate fasting into various rituals and celebrations. If your parent is observant, but you suspect he may not be physically up to the fast, speak to his doctor or spiritual counselor, who can talk to him about reasonable exemptions from fasting.

Diet supplements like Ensure are widely used in hospitals and nursing homes. Keep them cooled. Put a few cans on ice in the morning, and make them available all day long.

A glass of wine, if it's allowed by your Mom's doctor, can stimulate the appetite.

Sleep and Older Adults

If Grandma has trouble sleeping (and is not bedridden), encourage her to spend as little "awake time" as possible in bed. Reading, watching TV, and so forth, should be done in a favorite chair, while bed is for sleep only. Going to sleep and waking up at about the same time each day will also help train her body for better sleep overall.

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