Keep Seniors Eating with Healthy, Easy Snacks!

The importance of healthy snacks or small meals for seniors and elders in care. by francy Dickinson

healthy fast snacks for seniors in care

Apple Pie Always a Senior Favorite

Dear Francy; My mother is not eating…I am not kidding. She has always been thin, but now, she has no appetite. I have tried every dinner I can think of but nothing works. What can I do to spark her taste buds? Anne

When you get older, and many times when you are on certain medications, you lose your taste buds. The taste of food no longer pulls you in…nor does the smell. So, the best thing to start is to really spice up the meal with low-salt herbal spice mixes like Mrs. Dash. My secret is to simply tell the senior they do not have to eat a meal…just snack. That might sound easy but it means you have to make sure that snacks are easy to grab and easy to chew and swallow. So, this is a little extra work on the family member that over-sees your mom’s care.

Every 2-3 hours the senior needs to have a snack…a protein drink, a piece of cheese ( I love cheese sticks), a slice of good deli meat, veggies with dip, fruit with dip, a piece of chicken, a slice of steak, a baked potato. Keeping that energy level and blood sugar on an even keel is the true key to strength in mind and body. How can you help them with smaller eating all day long? Here are some tips to help them on their way.

It means you have to prepare food ahead and have it ready to go…so I will list ideas that will keep you involved and keep her eating:

Senior Snacks:

  1. Chicken is so good….so you have all sorts of ways to serve it in small pieces. Bake or buy a roasted chicken and have it sitting in the fridge for snacks, or pre cut it into small pieces and have it in a zip lock…even easier. OR — buy the large family size chicken thighs and legs and put them into the oven – spice well, put BBQ sauce on a few and bake them all. After they bake and cool…divide them into small zip locks – freeze a few bags and keep a couple in the fridge for easy snacks.
  2. Apples are so easy to use…you can peel, cut and slice and put some lemon on them and tuck it into a ziplock for easy grab snack. Serve it with a sweet dip, caramel..or some sour cream mixed with honey and cinnamon. Adding protein, calories is the point. If they dip, its more calories and that is a good thing
  3. Another soft dip sauce that is easy is peanut butter with honey and nutmeg…it makes a great dip for fruits and celery –always adding in calories and protein to everything that the senior eats
  4. Buy full seed and bran breads and crackers so when they choose to eat, it’s filled with good grains
  5. OK-Mok crackers are high in fiber, so are wheat thins – they’re best if you put them into a glass container on the counter – so the senior is tempted to grab a few when they walk by.
  6. Visual is so important…so make sure their cupboard is filled with containers not boxes. Buy see- through containers that will keep snacks fresh but let the senior see and grab easily. Do not pile on loads of food, best to do small amounts. If they live alone; buy a box of crackers, put 1/2 box in the container and take the rest home to your own family to enjoy. That way the crackers and snacks stay fresh for grandma and they change types often.
  7. Get soft cream cheese that is flavored with something they enjoy…the strawberry cream cheese is delish. I enjoy the salmon one myself. Good things are available in the dairy isle…take a look. They are pre making all sorts of things, including puddings. Remember buy small containers so they do not spoil so fast.
  8. Yogurt is great, but many elders do not like it. So introduce them to the Greek style yogurt that is richer and the new trend is putting loads of goodies into the yogurt. You will find it easy for the senior to have a small treat that tastes so rich.
  9. Every week, take over another fruit that is fresh. Strawberries; hull them and have them ready to reach in and take a bite. Do not put them into the salad drawer…keep them right out on the shelf so when the fridge door opens they “look” good and ready to eat. Always prep the fruit so the senior will eat it. Pineapple is so good, but only if the senior can take a bite size piece…otherwise it looks like too much for them and they pass over it. Bananas are great…and show grandma she can cut it in half and eat it…then eat the other half the next day. Often seniors say; I can not eat a whole banana…so let them know it’s OK to only eat half
  10. Veggies; many elders do not eat raw veggies. It was not popular when they were cooking or growing up. So, entice them with cutting veggies into small pieces and buy the tiny carrots and tomatoes. I buy a larger Rubbermaid container that has a green top. It’s a “fresh” container. If you get the larger one, you can fill it with a mix of little veggies that the senior can grab. It will stay fresh for a couple of weeks and then you can add a few different veggies to the mix. You gotta have “Ranch dip” for the veggies…and a secret? You can add in 2 scoops of vanilla protein mix folded into the ranch dressing. Each time they reach for it…they have more protein with each scoop. Watch the due dates on things and be prepared ‘throw away’ things. Try not to fuss over the waste…its better to have good food available for the senior than force them to eat left overs for days.
  11. Soup- I make my soups, cool and put a serving into a small ziplock. I then take it over to the senior. That way they get homemade split pea soup, German potato soup, chicken and broccoli soup– without buying a can and its the family recipe they probably cooked on their own for years. I freeze the soups and always write what it is on the ziplock in permanent ink. They can grab and go with soups in the freezer to the microwave or bag into the boiling water for heating.
  12.  Steak is often not eaten by elders with problem teeth. So, I buy small steaks, I slice them into small long slices. I then marinate them for 3 days and put the juice and the steaks in smaller ziplock. This way they can fry the steak in just a few minutes and have thin small size to eat as a snack or dinner. (Easy Marinate:. 1 bottle of Italian dressing into a large ziplock and put in the steak pieces. Place it in the bottom of the cool meat drawer, in fridge and turn it over every day. ) Once again, transfer the meat once it has soaked for three days and put small amounts into ziplocks so Grandma can grab them easy and fry up with an egg for breakfast or a baked potato for dinner.
  13. Pies are a perfect meal if you make them with fresh ingredients. A good apple pie can be breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack or dinner.Seniors do not have to think of fresh fruit pies as dessert…they can be just everyday eating. So when you bake or buy a good fresh fruit pie…cut it up and put it into Ziplocks.( I know I use a lot of them and I do buy the off brand of zip bags in bulk.) This way a couple of pieces are in the fridge and a couple more in the freezer. The senior needs smaller pieces and almost everyone loves the taste of fruit pies. They need to place them on the plate and hit them in the microwave for 1 min to warm and that brings out the flavor again
  14. Apple sauce and apple butter…both great stuff to have handy. The apple sauce comes in flavors and is in single serve containers…how easy is that one? Apple butter makes a good yummy toast treat on top of a rich grain and nut bread.
  15. Old fashioned but yummy: Quick coffee cakes and small one egg cakes work great for seniors. Once again; you leave out a small about; 2 small pieces and then they can add ice cream and have a filling treat. You can buy them at the store and cut it…or make easy cakes on your own.
    Here is my recipe for the one egg cake   http://joyfilledcooking.familyoven.com/
  16. Soft cheeses make for good dips and cracker toppings – I like the cheese with herbs and garlic…OH boy YUMM
  17. Popcorn may seem like a good snack but seniors can not eat it well, so go to Trader Joe’s and look over their selection of chips and snacks. They even have sweet potato chips, pretzels with peanut butter inside – be creative, it will pay off…the senior will love the new tastes
  18. Heritage…this is my trick. I think of the senior and what they ate when they grew up. What recipes were popular in the 1920’s or 30’s? What country is their heritage or are they Jewish or Latino? That means they have flavors that are in-grained in their mind about food. Once you get a feeling for the spices and treats that they enjoyed when they were younger and raising their own children…cooking, entertaining — those are the tastes and smells you want to bring back to them
  19. Many seniors love candy…sugar can really boost their brains as well as energy. Old fashioned hard candy like lemon drops, licorice that’s in small pieces and fresh so they can chew it. Do not bother with peanut brittle or taffy…their teeth will not do well with it. Keep a candy dish by them with spice drops, MnMs — It looks festive and tastes so good
  20. Add drinks with protein. You have to get your senior into protein drinks. If you have to buy a few and get the taste going…do it. I always chill the drinks, they taste better…there are many chocolate ones and the taste is vastly different between the companies. You can always do a vanilla flavor and ask them to drop in two strawberries and do a quick blend each morning. Work on it, your time will pay off with added intake of calories and protein. Most seniors have one each day and often two or three if they are not eating well

I hope the ideas have helped you thinking in a different direction. For us eating is so easy, we can even do a drive through to get a quick burger. Seniors living alone and elders in care are limited to what is in the house and how easy is it to prepared and eat. That is the key…easy.

Good luck, and thank you for all you do for the seniors in your family. Care giving can be a time-consuming and lonely time, thank you for your gift of love.

Blessings, francy

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*For all that want to know about George…he is due for this summer memory appointment. I will report back with how it went and what the doctor says about his medications. He is now on a cocktail of Alzheimer’s drugs…to boost his brain…Thank you for your prayers, I always feel them. f.

Loving through Pressure and Stress

How to cope with care giving in the middle of high stress…by francy Dickinson

OK so some days the stress and anger simply hit the screen of life and I have had one of those lately!

  1. Pressure building was my husband fighting Alzheimer’s and having more problems with personal accidents and the clean-up that involves
  2. Then I added on a nasty fight with spring allergies. My eyes have been swollen shut most of the last two weeks. The itch and worry over my eyes has not made me a happy camper.
  3. Worry over money has been a big problem for me and all seniors living on small budgets. Its a daily worry and now that George has lost his ability to understand that problem, it is getting worse. He forgets we can not spend money and often asks for things that are not in our budget and its hard on me to tell him, NO
  4. Then the car stopped working in the middle of the road while my friend, Cheryl was driving. She was suck in the middle of traffic and called all worried
  5. I was feeling panic over-coming me…I sat down and tried to take the issues into mind and be calm
  6. I called AAA car club and renewed our membership so the tow would be covered
  7. I called Cheryl and told her help was on the way.
  8. I called the car repair place and told them my car was on the way and I would have to OK repairs because of money restrictions
  9. I called my sister and asked if she would help me with the repair cost and I would pay her back
  10. I called Cheryl again and made sure she was OK…she said that the tow truck was there
  11. I called a dear friend and asked her to go and pickup Cheryl and bring her home

All during this problem, my eyes are swollen and I can barely see the screen of the phone to make the calls. George is in the living room yelling at me and telling me how stupid I am and how I should listen to him and let him make the decisions. Bad language is flying in the living room and the people on the phone could certainly hear it. What to do? The stress building and building?

  • I took a deep breath and went in to George and told him to calm down and he was not going to speak to me in that way
  • I was angry and I expressed my anger…I told him to be quiet while I tried to figure out how to handle all the problems- I kept my voice in a calm tone so I would not push him into any more anger
  • I removed myself from the living room…closed the doors to the kitchen to block the noise and I fixed George tea and a sugar treat
  • This sugar treat would serve to raise his level of energy and give his brain a boost and usually cools down the anger
  • His inability to “fix the problem” was giving him a power problem – he wanted to be the answer man, but could only be angry
  • Returning to him with a time out and telling him Cheryl was fine and on her way home and car would be fixed
  • George was too angry to accept it as the end of the situation he kept up the ranting for over two hours
  • George was then too tired to even walk to the bathroom and had to call for my help
  • I put him into bed after the bathroom and turned on the TV with a military channel to take his mind in another direction
  • I closed the door and called my sister again to talk about the money and the repair shop to get the news that the fuel pump had died and would need to order the part
  • I fixed myself a cup of tea…I went out the front door and walked around my house…even thou I was avoiding pollen, I needed the air
  • I came back in to another call from the repair shop that there may be more repairs to come
  • I fixed myself some lunch and drank water with an Emergen-cee package of 1,000 vit C
  • I took the dogs out to the back yard and swept the walk
  • I came back in and cleaned up the kitchen and checked on George, who was now asleep
  • High Event was over and George would forget the entire argument when he woke up- but I wouldn’t

No I was not OK….

Yes, it was a nasty ‘Event’

Yes, I kept my mind working on life instead of focused on not having money, or  car problems and care giving problems

I can not change my income at this point in my life…but I can still change my overall thinking process. George is to unwell with Alzheimer’s to correct his outbursts….but I can keep myself from jumping into his anger pool.

I know that the job of a spouse to care for their loved one is a hard job. But I think the anger issue and the lack of the one being cared-for to appreciate the care that is given– is the hardest issue I have at this time. Yes, I often feel badly that I am angry at the way George reacts and his lack of appreciation…but NO, I can not change his frame of mind. I can only do things to give myself – my own feeling of appreciation.

  • I made a few calls to friends to hear them say I was OK…and I was a good person, I needed that
  • I took a long shower and tried to tend to my face and eyes to relieve the discomfort
  • I put on spring clothing so I had brighter colors around me
  • I did not go off my diet, I am on a low carb diet and I simply had a special chocolate drink that was low in carbs
  • I moved around the house…getting myself filled with movement and listening to music helping my stress dissolve
  • I played with my dogs…giving them care and their kisses brought me happiness
  • I stayed away from George so my mind was kept calm
  • I sat down before I went to bed and wrote out my worries and upset in a journal so my feelings would be honored, but not haunt me all night
  • I allowed myself to cry out the upset and I was able to sleep

We may not be able to make life less stressful..but we can face the stress and work through it. I did not fix myself a drink, or take a sleeping pill. I knew that would be an unwise way to escape the pain. I wanted to face the pain and change it…not run from it. Because I am a strong woman that can calm myself down, think through my problems and ask friends to help me come up with answers.

I wanted to share this Event with you…because I know if I’m having a hard time….so are you. Giving care to others is not an easy or fun thing to do. Pretending that spouses giving care is no big deal is a lie. Life hits and family members need to be cared for no matter what is going on in your daily life. I understand the pain you feel, the fear that takes over your heart and the uncertainty of your own future.

Try hard to remember there are thousands of us going through this experience and there is a tomorrow, there will be a happier time ahead and you can catch moments of joy even on days filled with ‘Events’.

Being honest and open with our friends, family and our own self…is the most important action we can take. Just hold on, because I am sending you all prayers of strength…we can do this,we really can and we will rise again to a life that is filled with memories of good times, not bad. Memories of giving our loved ones our love and our all….and knowing their lives were filled with our loving care all through their end of life journey.

Blessings…francy

Waffles for Family Brunch w Seniors

Family time with seniors and how to keep the senior in their own home. by francy Dickinson

Sourdough Waffles for Brunch!

Spring time is a perfect time to visit your seniors and take the makings for a meal. I always think that food breaks down the gap in a diverse family. My favorite meal on Sunday is waffles. I do it the  easy way, with Bisquick, and then I like to add in my sourdough from the crock. The waffles smell so good and are so rich. I always get a special syrup – in our house- its boysenberries. Then I do a quick egg for those that love them and keep it simple for those that just want the yumm of the waffle. If I think ahead I get a basket of strawberries and use those on top of the waffles too! YUMM.

It is usually easier to just take food over to Grandma’s house. The TV can go on and the NASCAR races, basketball or football can be entertaining the family. That leaves you to spend time with Grandma and get her kitchen cleaned as you prepare the waffles. The interaction with your elders on a fun basis, allows you to check out the condition of their kitchen and food pantry. When elders are living on their own- they need to be checked by the family to make sure they are eating well and keeping the house clean.

I always had the breakfast planned the day before, then we would go over to mom’s around 11:30AM so we could sleep in on Sunday. The family would say NO…but when we were all in the car the mood changed and the day was reprogrammed for helping Grandma.

As I cooked, the youngsters would be in the living room with the TV on. They would dust the area and run the vacuum. I would have my husband set the table in the dinning room, so mother could use her sweet china. It made a simple breakfast into a special meal.

I would be clearing out the fridge making sure the dates on the products were current or I would throw them and make a shopping list. I would go over the counters. Older eyes have problems seeing details in the kitchen….so a good counter top clean is easy and helpful. I would use a hot cloth to clean the shelves of the refrigerator and wipe off the stove top.

Making sure her dry pantry was not loaded with products that were ages old. When elders stop cooking or just cut it down to cooking for one…the pantry tends to age. You do not need old flour, cake mixes or canned food. It really takes a very short period of time to review it and clear it out. Once again writing down what should be replaced on the shopping list.

Keeping the conversation uplifted and involving the senior with your projects you will find the few hours you visit go fast and loads gets done.

While the table is being cleared and dishes done. My husband or the younger kids…would go around the house to do Grandma’s “to fix list” . The back yard might need mowing or the lightbulbs changing…what ever it is…you make a quick run through the house to make sure its safe and secure.

Don’t forget to change batteries on the fire alarms, change the filter on her furnace and clear the back porch so she can escape in an emergency.

Once a month, brunch at Grandma’s brings you all a good meal and a feeling of family. This is how we can keep our seniors in their homes. By helping them with the little things that get out of kilter…the things that need to be fixed, replaced and added to the mix to make their aging home stay clean, efficient and safe. Start your monthly visit for the whole family…your youngsters will learn how to gift their time and enjoy the love that their grandparents have for them, too!

HEY…would you click on your right and sign up button. You will then be notified when I share a new blog. And yes my senior care books are coming out…I am very excited about them.

UPDATE: on my Georgie..he has had a very tough month with his Alzheimer’s he is in a very emotional place. He had his meds upated and that helped. It has taken a lot out of me too. As you know the care giver is so involved with the spouse that a bad day for George is a bad day for me. But sharing what I do and how I have learned to cope, helps me get over the humps. Wishing you all a wonderful Spring…Here in Seattle we have had rainy weather day after day…so I am looking forward to the warmth and time in the yard again.

Blessings on you all…francy