During the next few days of holidays we all will be exposed to plenty of delightful food choices — some healthy, some not. Your aging loved ones may feel tempted to try dishes they usually avoid. It’s up to us to look out for their best interest and ensure that Mom and Dad’s holiday food choices are beneficial and not detrimental to their health.
Plan for Healthier, Senior-Friendly Dishes
Regardless of where your aging loved ones will spend the holidays, you and their Caregiver need to be proactive when it comes to food choices. Maybe Mom has difficulty with swallowing and will need to partake of softer dishes. Perhaps Dad, not to be embarrassed by his use of full dentures, should be offered easy to chew foods, like soft-cooked veggies, mashed potatoes or squash casserole. Instead of meat dishes, they may be served soft and delicious fish fillets. If Mom suffers from Alzheimer’s, she will appreciate food that she can handle with ease. Their food should be also easy to digest. Consider substituting cakes, pies and candy with baked apples, sweet potatoes and fresh fruit salads. If your aging loved ones suffer from diabetes, please make sure that dishes that are offered to them will be safe for that condition.
Plan for Easy In and Easy Out
As mentioned in our previous article, try to seat Mom and Dad at the head or near the head of the dining table. They will need more frequent restroom breaks and easy access to and from the table — especially if they use a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair. Seating them in the middle of the table will disrupt everyone and is bound to make your parents feel that they are a burden upon others.
Out of Sight — Out of Mind
It is advisable to chat about food choices with Mom and Dad before they arrive. Such discussions will precondition their thoughts and focus them on the healthy dishes you are preparing for them.
You may have 4, 6, or 16 people at your Christmas dinner party. Place the serving plates with “Senior-friendly” foods near Mom and Dad, so they will not be tempted with foods that they should not eat being placed right under their eyes. The less healthy choices will be out of their sight and, therefore, out of their mind.
Moderation is Key
During dinner, Seniors should eat smaller portions, drink water, use little or no salt, and maybe skip the second helping of the dessert. Moderation is key. Excess salt may be very harmful for the Elderly who have heart failure, kidney disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. It is a good idea to avoid salt in all dishes while cooking, but have salt on a table, so guests can help themselves as needed.
As you know, overeating, eating heavy, fatty meals can cause heartburn. According to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2000, an unusually heavy meal may increase the risk of heart attack by 400% within two hours after eating.
Alcohol use may easily affect medication your Mom takes, affect heart health, impair her cognitive abilities and mobility. It’s safer to skip alcohol altogether. Instead, have a variety of non-alcoholic beverages. Who does not enjoy a hot cup of tea on a cold December night?
Plan on playing a little soft, background music — perhaps some of Mom’s favorite carols — that will tune everyone into a good holiday cheer. As you can see, with a little bit of planning, your holiday dinner party will not only be healthier for everybody, but also joyful and triumphant.
Merry Christmas to our Christian friends!
Blessed Kwanzaa Days to those celebrating Kwanzaa!
… and happy Festivus to all the rest!
With Love for the Elderly…