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helping a senior couple eat for health and mental clarity  RSS feed

 
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First, a little off-topic, one of the important factors in mental health other than a healthy diet, is socialization. That means that having healthy food potluck dinners is a win-win situation!

My son's girlfriend works long hours and hasn't been eating well. If my son's visiting, he'll often chop up veggies and freeze them in small quantities, so they're easier to grab, stir-fry and eat. He only does 1-2 weeks worth at a time, so blanching isn't as necessary. Part of healthy eating is finding ways to make it just as easy as the alternative.

Also, people with Alzheimers and similar tend to crave sugar. When my mom started having difficulty eating and was put on mushed food, we left the care workers a bottle of maple syrup as it was a long term favorite. The Dietitian was a bit perturbed, but a little bit drizzled on the dinner meant she ate some of the healthier parts of the meal - life is full of compromises so if you have to do something less than ideal, at least make it a conscious, informed decision.
 
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Timothy Markus wrote:You can now buy keytones, which may help with dementia.  Medical researchers who I find credible are skeptical that ingesting keytones will have an effect on weight loss have said that they could see them helping with dementia.  I've suggested it to my family, for my father, but they all think the SAD is fine, so it's an uphill battle.  He fell again yesterday, the second time in about 5 days, so maybe they'll get on board with giving it a shot.


Interesting tip about the ketones (sp? keytones?).

Yes, families who think the SAD diet is fine, and keep buying all the packaged, prepared, nutrient-deficient, inflammatory foods are certainly a familiar road block. I'm so sorry to hear about your father falling.

In my OP, the dunce cap picture came from a blog talking about how unhealthy Smart Balance margarine is. I didn't realize until after I created that post and sent a link of it to someone else helping this elderly couple, that is was *that* person who had suggested they get the Smart Balance! Uff. I really did not mean to be that obnoxious to them!

So...I tried to start with replacing margarine with butter (these are certainly ominvores who enjoy dairy products) in the elderly couple's fridge, though I'm not sure that even just that one change has stuck.

What one change might your family be interested in?

 
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Definitely ketones, sorry.  

My family isn't interested in what I have to say, so I've stopped saying it.  They're more likely to come to that conclusion on their own now.  I'm too radical for them in pretty much all my thinking, so they'll only listen to be polite.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Jay Angler wrote:First, a little off-topic, one of the important factors in mental health other than a healthy diet, is socialization. That means that having healthy food potluck dinners is a win-win situation!


Yes, I was thinking that might be a huge advantage of an assisted living facility for the senior couple I mentioned in the OP. A place where eating or meeting up in the dining hall is a regular part of life. I was thinking they would certainly enjoy that.

Jay Angler wrote:My son's girlfriend works long hours and hasn't been eating well. If my son's visiting, he'll often chop up veggies and freeze them in small quantities, so they're easier to grab, stir-fry and eat. He only does 1-2 weeks worth at a time, so blanching isn't as necessary. Part of healthy eating is finding ways to make it just as easy as the alternative.


How awesome of you son to do that!

The seniors in the OP now have run out of energy and skills to cook for themselves and are looking for frozen or delivered meals more and more. Which I think means their food quality has been sliding more downhill of late. I'm wishing I had time to can them a year's worth of soups, stews, chilis, and make some other frozen meals or prepared food for them. I'm not seeing a window of time like that for a while though, unfortunately.

Jay Angler wrote:Also, people with Alzheimers and similar tend to crave sugar. When my mom started having difficulty eating and was put on mushed food, we left the care workers a bottle of maple syrup as it was a long term favorite. The Dietitian was a bit perturbed, but a little bit drizzled on the dinner meant she ate some of the healthier parts of the meal - life is full of compromises so if you have to do something less than ideal, at least make it a conscious, informed decision.


This makes sense to me! I think there are healthier version of sweets, like the maple syrup, that are far better than someone wasting away or eating donuts. Healthy fruit sugars or maple syrup on some things can be part of a very good diet IMHO.
 
Timothy Markus
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My mom used to cook almost everything from scratch.  Now, at 73, she almost never cooks.  She's made fewer than 5 meals in the last 5 months.  She mostly eats chicken wings or cheese and crackers along with crap.  It's a big surprise to see.  She also doesn't seem to be able to make even the simplest decisions anymore.  She wants my advice on what to get every grocery run, buys produce that's already on the way out (she doesn't ever look it over, not sure if her vision is the issue) and buys so much that she doesn't eat.  
 
Jay Angler
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How about a human history reality check. When my great-aunt's husband died, she immediately moved in with my Grandmother and Grandfather and that would have been the 1950's. When my father arrived from England just before then, he lived with an unrelated family and paid room and board. My friend's grandmother in Nova Scotia lived in her cottage in the summer, with family visiting (ocean front - beautiful place), but went into the city in a room and board situation for the winter. I suspect that an elderly couple living alone and trying to cope is a relatively modern situation, but "independence" has been pushed hard since the 50's, and I know my mom fought hard to live alone well past when she should have and her diet would have been worse if my sisters hadn't been close at hand.

In other words, to a great extent we're dealing with a modern problem, so we're going to have to be pretty creative about finding solutions.
Timothy Markus wrote:

Now, at 73, she almost never cooks.  She's made fewer than 5 meals in the last 5 months.  



How do we ask our elderly politely, but firmly, why?
How do we get their mental status evaluated? Depression, pain, confusion, decreased vision etc. are all things which can interfere with meal-making.
How do we make sure we've tried within ourselves to acknowledge family history crap that could be interfering with our ability to help elderly relatives constructively, particularly when loss of frontal lobe function is common, and if they're reliving losses due to memory issues, or struggling with issues in their own history?
How do we open the conversation of what elderly individuals want to do with the rest of their life? A neighbor was just complaining (maybe not the right word) that an elderly friend with attitude, asked if she were to run across a field, would my neighbor's husband be willing to shoot her? (she knows he's a hunter - how many "hunting" accidents occur in a year?) But did anyone then actually sit down and use the "D" word? Do some of the elderly people who aren't taking good care of themselves actually have a death wish? Is so, again why? Do they feel they are no longer contributing but just taking up space? How do we change that?

OK, again I feel like I'm derailing this thread a little, but I come from a strong background in looking at the "big picture" - hmmm... no wonder I was drawn to permaculture! I think that's a really important part of fixing the food problem, and it's the part that we, as average people, have not been taught to do - possibly even taught *not* to do - don't be nosy, mind your own business etc. This may not have a place in the OP situation, but some of what other's have posted might have use of these thoughts. I do know that for people dealing with true dementia issues, the book, "Still Alice" by Lisa Genova is worth a read.
 
Timothy Markus
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My dad's got Lewy Body dementia and has had a huge decline in function since last September.  He's had other health issues and I had to help out a lot since that time.  We were very lucky to get him into a home as quickly as we did.  My brother, sister and I have tried to talk to my mom about her health and getting on a list for a home herself, as it can take 3-5 years in a non-emergency situation, but she refuses to even discuss it.  She can barely get up and down stairs, but she does so several times a day, even though I'll get her anything she needs.  Every time I worry that she'll fall.  In this situation, there's almost nothing we can do.  Her doctor wouldn't even agree to listen to us unless my mom was present, so we can't even tell her doctor that she's an alcoholic and abusing the opiods that the doctor's prescribing.  It's very frustrating.
 
Jay Angler
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@ Timothy - It is *very* hard not to feel frustrated when you're feeling powerless to make changes. Alcohol and substance abuse must be two of the hardest things to cope with both personally and within family members and I'm soooo... very thankful that we dodged that bullet in my immediate family as on my husband's side he had both an uncle and aunt who were alcoholics. Keeping you mom's nutrition as strong as possible would certainly help. Alcoholism has links to depression, so foods that are known to help combat depression might be an avenue to explore. Having someone you can get support from (caregiver burnout is a real thing) is also important.

When my sisters were worried about mom falling on her stairs, they bought those large foam puzzle-shaped mats and cut them to fit the area at the bottom of the stairs. They may not have been the in style, but a layer or two of padding might be all you can do!

Your mom may not be willing to discuss moving to a care situation, but you might also want to consider doing some groundwork investigating in case things change. When my sister's went looking the differences were immense and we were very lucky that one of the ones they'd decided would be a good place, came available when they needed it.  
 
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