Seniors Can Eat Well and Enjoy It!

by francy Dickinson   🙂 I am working on my website and will have it updated and ready soon…thanks  

Dear Francy; I am giving up, mom will not eat a thing. I have tried food from every place in town plus my own dinners. She nearly drinks energy drinks. She wants to eat, but she is so picky and says her taste buds have left her. What on earth do I do to get her back to eating again?

I know how hard this is, fighting medications, dementia, weakness, upset stomachs…the list goes on and on when you have a senior not eating. But we have to just remember a few rules of the care givers trade and you will find it change for the best. I have added a great French Toast for the Most recipe in the end of the rules. It is always a go to food for me when I am dealing with someone who is beyond eating.  Now remember…eating is all of a person not just food. So, read this and take from it what you feel you can use…good luck!

CARE GIVER RULES FOR SENIORS EATING WELL:

  1. As you age and take medications your taste buds start to diminish and it’s very hard to enjoy eating. This added to not feeling well brings out the “I am not hungry”, or” That does not look good to me.” Start with telling the doctor that the senior is not eating well at all. He will do a couple of things: he will give you a medication that can increase hunger, or have you take one of the pills that are already on the senior’s list at a different time of day. He will ask a nutrition person to meet with you and review the diet and see if little tweaks can help add protein. Finally he will professionally tell the patient they “have” to eat. Sometimes a doctor’s word is stronger than family or caregivers.
  2. Next buy protein powder and supplement drinks. You can add the protein power to different things, like soups, gravy, milk for cereal, etc. The supplement drinks are for a meal or supplement to low food intake. I always try vanilla and add a flavor to them. The chocolate is good…but remember when they are the meal, using them cold is what makes their taste pop. Keep drinks in fridge and then shake them before you serve in a chilled glass.
  3. Make smoothies for mornings. Everyone has to take pills and will drink in the morning. Using a yogurt, and protein powder with milk or a supplement drink and whipping it up in blender (always with one ice cube) will give it foamy drink that tastes good and will really add protein and sugar to the senior’s morning. I always top the drink with a little nutmeg, it gives it a good taste and smell. If you have fresh or frozen fruit, go for it!
  4. Dont forget egg nog…I am personally on a low carb diet and I have enjoyed my morning drink. I use vanilla protein power with milk (or vanilla supplement drink) a packet of sugar substitute, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/3 tsp nutmeg, an ice cube, one full raw egg, and mix in blender until its fluffy. This is a yummy way to add extra protein it tastes fresh and goes down easy. It really works to fill me up for the morning and I know a senior would find it satisfying too.
  5. Add spices. To bump the taste buds you need to add spices a little more aggressively. I love using the low salt mix like Mrs Dash and adding low sodium salt so you can use it without side effects. Sprinkle everything… you use spices as you cook so they are absorbed in the food and then top the food with a lite hand so the smell and the taste pops.
  6. Smell goes in elders too…so be sure to serve food hot or cold, they give out more smells than room temp or warm food. Get a microwave plate cover and use it to transport the food on the tray to the senior to keep it hot.
  7. Get in habits. Seniors like habits. So you have eggs & bacon or sausage type of meal twice a week, protein smoothie and toast 3 times a week, a good pancake or waffle on weekends and then one day is cereal. Make the plan out for the week and stick to it…so the senior gets good food sprinkled with different tastes and knows what to look forward to each day.
  8. Rules, the rules have to be set for seniors that are not eating or eating unwise things. They simply have to eat 1 meal a day and drink 2 protein drinks to keep alive. I sat down with mom and told her that her small strokes were not going to go away, so keeping her body strong was her only hope for a comforting life. It’s so easy to think; “I will stop eating and pass away.”  In reality it usually means you stop eating and your meds don’t work and you wind up in the hospital and/or a lonely high-care nursing facility. If they want to stay at home, or with family…they have to think of eating as their work each day. When they look at it like a duty and a responsibility you will get less stressful complaining.  
  9. Food is not just food, if it was you would never pay hundreds of dollars for a dinner at your local best restaurant. So buy a tray that is light and functional for you to bring food to the senior. Buy a few new dish towels that look bright and fun and use them to line the tray. Use a smaller plate (yes buy one) so it looks like their food is big and their eating is full. Have good utensils, if senior has a problem with holding forks or spoons, buy some that are specially designed for that purpose you find them in the medical supply place, or in a medical catalog online. Have a smaller glass for the juice, it will look better to give a 1/2 cup in a small glass instead of a 1/2 cup in a big glass. Make the tray cheery and the plate well done, just like you get when you go out to eat. This is the presentation that makes a difference…they will see the food “looking good” and want to eat it more than just a plate shoved in front of them.
  10. Keep salt and pepper by their chair so they can always add a bit, if the taste is to bland. Give them a napkin a real napkin in a ring holder for their meals. It is more sturdy for drips and more enjoyable to feel special instead of a paper napkin or paper towel. It’s all about feeling, seeing and smelling with food. So make it your job to think about how to change the presentation for the better. Your standards of feeding will set the meal for more success and don’t lower them. A simple sandwich can have a sliced pickle or small tomatoes on the plate. You can make a difference by just being creative as you give your daily care.
  11. Serve with a smile. Oh how I remember an afternoon that a dear girl friend came to take me to lunch when I was giving 24/7 care to my mother. My sister stayed with mom and I got to “go out”. We went to a local diner and had a simple hamburger meal. The waitress was in a mood and slow and when my food arrived she slid the plate on the table to me and it went into my lap. I was in tears. I know, I over reacted…but you see I had given so much to mom that this lunch was my time to have someone care for me and she just pushed the meal at me. It hurt my feelings and I left without paying or eating. I took that experience in and made sure that no matter how personally tired or upset I was, I did not show it when I fed my mother. I arrived with a tray and a smile. I served the food and talked about something light and left her alone to eat it. I gathered the tray and did not allow myself to be upset if she did not eat one or more of the things I had fixed. Attitude of cheer and happiness and talking about good things and leaving the TV on something light and easy to watch while the senior is eating….it all goes together in a package.
  12. When you have children you learn to stick veggies into anything so the child gets good stuff to eat. Well that is what you do for a senior. If you have spaghetti then you put shredded zucchini in the sauce and no one will know. You put protein mix in the gravy. You take the bologna out of the package and put it into the processor with protein powder, mustard, pickle relish and mayo and let the blades bring it down to a simple chopped meat spread for a great sandwich treat with lettuce or sprouts. Be creative and smart…give the senior good food, with little packages of surprise goodies inside.
  13. Talking, just let the senior know you are doing your best and you are tired and need their help. You need them to try as hard as they can to eat at least a few bites of the things you bring to them. If they can not finish it, fine, but they need to think of eating as a job and do the very best they can so you can all enjoy life together. You are apart of a health team, you and the senior have to work together to make days filled with good food, exercise and happy thoughts. It can be a challenge, but it is how life is lived to the best each day. I know you can do it, just keep trying and understand that your energy to make them eat good food, has to be matched by their willingness to continue their care with you in their life. If they can not help you, then a change is going to be made. That honesty about your rules of the home and your care giving- given in calm moments not anger….is what has to be done so the senior knows good health can come from good nutrition.

FRENCH TOAST WITH THE MOST

My husband loves French Toast so I do it once a week and I give him much more than what it looks like on the plate. So gather in the ingredients and put this recipe together so the senior gets even more than they know from eating it.

3 Eggs   – 1/4 cup of milk with a scoop of protein powder or use vanilla supplement drink  – 1/2 tsp vanilla – 1/4 tsp cinnamon –
1/2 tsp sugar or 1/2 packet of sugar substitute – 2 slices of good sandwich bread

Mix the egg ingredients in the blender until they are foamy and pour into a pie dish. Prepare a large skillet/grill with spray oil and heat to medium. Have the egg mixture close to the pan and use a good pancake flipper to dunk the bread into the egg mixture. Get both sides of the bread good and moist and then transfer to medium hot pan for browning. Turn the two slices of bread over and when both sides are lightly browned – dunk the bread back into the egg mixture and re-coat. Then put back into the skillet or grill and continue cooking. Repeat this until the egg mixture is all used up and the two pieces of bread are well coated with layers of now cooked eggs. Lower the heat and cover the bread for a minute to puff up slightly.

Serve on plate with a fresh fruit topping, syrup and always sprinkle with a light dusting of powdered sugar for a festive appeal. If you have some whip cream in a can use it, just like in a breakfast diner, make it look as good as it tastes. This is such a yummy meal and it is loaded with extra good things and means that even if they eat one piece they have loads of protein. If your senior loves bacon, use it on the side and if they love a special fruit just buy frozen in the winter.

Hope all of this helps, it has always been successful for me. My seniors always respond in a positive way to my cooking. If you are not a cook…then take time to buy a simple Betty Crocker cookbook and use it as your guide. Don’t be embarrassed to make your skills improve in order to help the senior and your family eat more and eat healthy. Blessings, francy

Join me on twitter @seniorcaretips
Enjoy my other recipes: http://joyfilledcooking.familyoven.com/

Pets and Seniors Need Each Other

by francy Dickinson   (web site is updating – honest, I am working on it 🙂

Dear Francy; Mom lost dad two months ago, she is just 80 and still active. Dad did most of the driving and paying bills so she’s a bit lost on her own. She is in a smaller home so I know she can stay there for a while and she is well and dealing with adversities. But she calls me all day long, with the old; ” I don’t know what to do”. I know she should not make any big change decisions, but her coming out of giving full-time care to dad is hard on her. Suggestions?

Yes, I know this time frame is really hard on any spouse, but especially on your mom because your dad did a great deal for her during their time together. She is in withdrawal from all sorts of things. She misses your dad, but she misses his giving and caring for her also. She misses giving to him, he was her daily routine and life structure for a long time. Caregiving is something you do 24/7 and you give up lots of things for yourself to tend to another.  Then the care is over, the spouse passes and you are left alone. Now it’s time for her to slowly become her own self again.

I always suggest a pet. It means that the senior has something to tend to each day. They start their day with a need to clean a kitty box or take a small dog out the door. They know they need to exercise the pet and that keeps them moving. They know they need to feed the pet and that gives them a focus on time to eat for their own needs. They need to give the pet love and this helps to fill the place that their spouse left empty.

You want to be careful with your selection of  a pet…get something small that they can enjoy and make a commitment to them. If they become unwell and unable to care for the pet let them know you will find it a good home. Mean it, the pet deserves a lifelong commitment and that can include more than one family -not a return to the shelter. 

Lots of people will get a cat and if you do so the shelters have wonderful older cats that will be calm and enjoy living inside and having love and hugs. If you or your mom have never had a cat, just talk to the staff and let them help you find one that fits the home, your mom’s personality and the needs of the animal. If your mom already has one think of adding a playful kitty that will add a little snap and pop to the quiet home.

Now days you can hire a high school neighbor to clean out a kitty box and do light chores every other day or buy a cat box that’s self-cleaning. The expense pays off over and over again when a senior does not have to bend over or carry things outside to clean. You want to know what to get the cat…like a large scratching post and little toys and good food. Dry kibble is what a cat will eat and you need to buy the kind that is for indoor cats. A senior can not lift a heavy bag of food or litter. So buy a couple of the big bins with wheels, at the pet store, to store them and let the senior just open the lid and scoop. The bins can be kept safe in the garage, pantry or hall closet.  Then add just a little taste of canned food every few days for the cat to enjoy. This is an easy project for family and the elder senior. The cat in return will snuggle in with the senior and give them hours of enjoyment and a feeling of not being alone.

Going into a senior home that has no animal is always so quiet to me. The TV may be on, but once it is turned off…there is total silence. Add a pet and the silence is absorbed by the love they generate. They fill the place with silly play time and demands that only animals can make. It brings smiles to all seniors.

Even fancy retirement or assisted living places now allow cats and small dogs…so do not be worried about the future. If you make a commitment to give the animal a good life…then it will happen.

I remember talking to a man, years ago, that had lost his wife to Alzheimer’s. He was so lonely and I asked him to get a pet. I told him about a small dog and he thought I was nuts. No small dog, he said. He felt little dogs were barky and wild. NO, I said, they are well-mannered if you make them that way. A big dog takes lots of exercise and with your bad knee and bum hip, you need to keep it small so it can get exercise in the back yard with a ball throw and good romp, each day.

He was not hot on the idea, but as he progressed in his grief and he felt he needed to do something. He was getting very depressed on his own and so he called me again and asked if I would help him find a dog. I brought him into our local shelter and we talked to a lady that worked for Purina, they had a special senior placement program at the time. She reviewed his needs and his home size and talked about other pets he had, had in his past. She came up with a small schnauzer. It took her two months to find one that was older and would make the match. He was so excited when she called and we went in to meet with her and meet the dog. The dog had been with another senior, it was five and it was used to a quieter home.

It was a hassle getting him to understand the needs of a small dog. (He had large dogs that needed little attention and his wife had done more of the pet care than he had.) But with a couple books and getting the right products to help him, it all smoothed out. A month later I returned to visit him. The first thing  I found was the little dog in the window at the front door and the wiggles of delight at meeting a new friend. Then when I entered the house I found a large basket of dog toys that were piled high in the living room. The three (count them three) dog beds were placed throughout the home. The water bowl on the kitchen floor was on a very cute plastic floor guard and the food dish matched the water bowl. The dog had a collar with his name tag and a flashy lead that would stand out on dark nights for short walks. He also had a groomer that had brought his feathers into a very handsome cut.

Then to my amazement, the gentleman picked up the dog and started to talk to it with a high voice and a funny little patter to his words. It made me smile a smile so deep. A man who found a friend, a man who was able to express his inner needs and share it with a dog. A dog that was so filled with love that he had to kiss the guy non stop and a family united in love.

Pets, and seniors not only belong together, its pretty nutty for them to be apart. If allergies exist, there are animals that will work within those challenges, just ask your local shelter to help you find the perfect match. Losing a spouse of many years goes to the top of life’s hardships…but grieving with a small pet by your side, will help healing and keep the senior young in body and heart. 

Blessings on all you do for your mom. I think many forget that giving attention and time to seniors is a gift that keeps on going. Your patience on the phone is helping her find herself again. That is a kind and dear thing to give to a lady that gave so much to you as you grew up. Thank you. francy

I am on Twitter join me @seniorcaretips

Valentines for Seniors or Mid-Winter Smiles

by francy Dickinson                      Note my web site is updating will announce when all in place again 🙂

Dear Francy: Can I tell you how unhappy my uncle is right now? He’s in care center- bored, nothing going on. The Superbowl was fun for him but now…what? I brought him a magazine but he just put it on his side table- not interested. I want him to live with happiness in his life. How can I help him with that?

How kind you are to even care and go and visit. It just takes a half hour to visit and costs nothing to sit and chat, you are adding so much quality to his routine. It may seem like you’re doing very little, but it’s a huge thing to have a friendly face visit you during the day in a care center.

Valentine is a perfect time for all seniors men or women. Arrive with an arm full of valentine stuff from the dollar store. Put up the hearts around the door and have a big bowl of candy so the staff and visitors get a treat each time they come in the room. It will keep everyone perky and talking about happy things.

I first gave a battery operated Valentine Dancing Monkey to my Uncle many years ago. It played a funny Elvis tune and moved all around when you pressed the button. He listened to it and laughed and tucked it into his walker and took it with him to the dinning room. He showed it off and other seniors laughed and moved around to the music.

A few years later, when I had momma at my home, I found a delightful one with boy and girl bears dancing together to music. Mom would have everyone that entered the door push the button and she would laugh. It just brings down the stress and adds a little silly moment to a life that is lonely. I suggest this action to all who have elders in care, or at home with limited mobility…its just for fun. It may seem like its childish, but some times childish is just whats needed.

To laugh at silly things is important. To talk about love is the perfect timing around Valentines. Talk about family members that have passed and let the senior express their feelings. Ask them when they first met their spouse, if the spouse has passed this lets old memories flood forth and you enjoy the family history with them.

I love the way elders talk about the past. They do not try to hide any of the off color stories or the bad choices, they talk about them and laugh. Aunts and Uncles you always thought lived perfect lives,  suddenly sound like everyday people.  The stories become funny and the memories are alive and happy.

Most elders, even those with dementia problems, will remember things from their early days. You will enjoy the talks about being shy and finally asking someone to dance and then winding up marrying that young girl. Or my mother’s story of daddy paying a neighbor boy to keep him informed if mom had a date with another boy. Daddy would mysteriously appear on the door step as she returned home from her date.  Preventing  mother’s possible good nite kiss with a rivil suiter.  Mom did not learn of the plot till many years later.

Talking about fun things, sad things…they help the senior adjust to life and tuck in memories of their past. It’s very good for them and great interest for you. All started over a simple heart decoration and a piece of candy.

Don’t forget if your senior was always an animal person, bring your dog to visit with a big red bow and some valentines hanging off of their collar. Just give the dog a bath and take it for a good walk around the block so it can go potty and get its energy out. Then visit the senior for 15 minutes. Always inform the office or care giver before you arrive with the dog, but I have rarely had a NO in all the years of bringing in my Bichon for elders to hug. The dog adores the visit and the attention and the senior and their friends are thrilled to just pet a sweet dog.

If children are too young or too restless to bring for a visit, then do a video and place it on your laptop and show it while you’re there. You can have the kids making a valentine around the table at home and then give the senior the valentine so they feel a part of  the activity.

If you want to flip for something fun, there are great pajamas with hearts and inexpensive jewelry with hearts to adorn your senior lady’s neck. You can imagine the surprise of jewelry (even just for fun) for a lady that is unable to get out and about. Not to mention the laugh that an elder man will have with heart shaped sleeping bottoms. Its just for fun.

If you become the energy with the spirit of Valentine – the senior feels that spirit and reacts well with your surprise visit. It’s just one more way to share happiness and love with those that have given so much to all the rest of us through the years. Here’s an easy recipe to make candy truffles to take to the care center or senior’s home. give this a try it is not hard to do, I am doing it with my young niece this coming weekend.

SUPER EASY CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES FOR YOUR Elder’s Valentines
Anyone can make these (even the guys) they are easy and super yummy…makes a nice gift and treat!

Ingredients

  • 1 (8 ounce) package Cream Cheese
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp coffee (fresh from the coffee maker)
  • 12 (1 ounce) squares Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate, melted
  • 1  teaspoons vanilla
  • Suggested coatings, unsweetened cocoa, powdered sugar and/or Coconut I always use cocoa for the coatings it makes it so yummy (looks just like a truffle from the ground)

Directions

  1. Beat cream cheese in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add sugar, mixing until well blended.
  2. Add melted chocolate, coffee and vanilla; mix well. Refrigerate 1 hour or until chilled.
  3. Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in cocoa, powdered sugar or coconut. Store in refrigerator.
  4. I always buy a storage box at the $store, for Valentine they would have a plastic red heart box that is perfect storage for these little gems. They are rich and good and you can give just a few and spread them around to friends, family and your special senior in care! YUMMY

Talk again soon, I am working on my website this week and will have it going again and looking fresher and filled with fun stuff…please do follow me on twitter @seniorcaretips – francy