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

 
Jocelyn Campbell
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I present to you, a "food as medicine" challenge! Are you up for it? I imagine permies would be.

There is a senior-aged couple (78 and 85) and both of them have health issues - one of the issues being dementia which has recently had some dramatic flare ups - and I plan to help them with food for a bit.

Today, they asked me to stop at the store and get them a few things, including "Smart Balance" margarine. Oy vey.

(Image from There's Nothing Smart About Smart Balance by Sarah Pope.)

This couple eats very typical, somewhat cheap American food, nothing "ethnic." Sandwiches, bacon and eggs, toast, meatloaf and potatoes (with salad on the side), ham and split pea soup, that kind of thing.

I think they either got used to the Smart Balance margarine, or are still convinced that margarine is healthier. I bought them pastured, organic, cultured butter instead. Though that might have pissed them off.

Soooo. There are a few things I know about anti-inflammatory diets. What they like to eat does not have to be inflammatory. It could be better if the ingredients were higher quality, (grassfed beef and something *besides* Ritz crackers in the meat loaf, for example).

I'm looking for suggestions on:
--what fun, delicious food to provide that is anti-inflammatory and good for mental function. I have heard that blueberries are good for mental function (so I also brought them blueberries today with the butter, among other things). What else along these lines?
and
--what are some healthy food suggestions that even those stuck in a food rut would enjoy?

They really can't stand kale, though they generally do okay with vegetables, soups, and whole grains or legumes.

What do you all think? What would be your 'go to' food for this?

 
Genevieve Higgs
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One thing to check in with them is their needs regarding texture and food sensitivities.  Sometimes dental issues might make hard or crunchy things difficult.   Similarly people with swallowing or aspiration issues might need a certain texture or size of food.  GERD (reflux) and constipation might also dictate food choices.  These things can be tough subjects for previously independent people to bring up.

That being said in my experience people eat with their eyes and their hearts -beautiful food and friendship will win more healthy choices than a truckload of nutritional information.
 
James Freyr
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Everytime I see the word margarine I think of this flow chart I came across. Show them this, and I bet they'll go back to butter. Margarine and butter substitutes have no business in the human body

margarine-manf-process-anh.png
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Jocelyn Campbell
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Oh right, good points, Genevieve! One of the two in the couple avoids spicy foods because of acid reflux. Hence part of the aversion to ethnic foods, I'm sure. Though they are fine with crunchy textures and things, though that is probably quite an issue with a lot of seniors. And constipation is a very real concern for a lot of seniors, so that's a good issue, too.

Colorful/beautiful, flavorful, with good company sounds like one good way to go! Thanks!

James, I WISH I could show them that chart, but they are rather overwhelmed with some major issues right now, and being shown something akin to a "should" is the last thing they'd want to receive. It would not go over well with this couple right now, unfortunately.




 
Dale Hodgins
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Shepherd's pie that is light on spice and heavy on vegetables, is likely to be a healthier choice than most meals where too much attention is paid to meat and other oily things. With as little as 10% meat, it still seems like a meat dish, which many old people enjoy. You can sneak a lot of good things into shepherd's pie, and it still comes out tasting sinfully good. Everything can be cut small enough, to be disguised and easy to process. You might be able to hide some Ginkgo in there.

When I make shepherd's pie, I use more meat than that and I use lots of Indian and Italian spices. People have been known to faint, recover and then eat some more. I sometimes make everything that would go into a shepherd's pie, but with very little potato. If they have a glycemic index issue, too much potato at once, is not good.
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Boom!
 
Jarret Hynd
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Jocelyn Campbell wrote:
James, I WISH I could show them that chart, but they are rather overwhelmed with some major issues right now, and being shown something akin to a "should" is the last thing they'd want to receive. It would not go over well with this couple right now, unfortunately.


Agreed, if they are overwhelmed with other things, it's best just to let them have a few guilty pleasures. I'd just start by reducing all the "bad" things they eat, as the next best method from getting rid of the something(margarine) would be to reduce the use of it. I'm not sure if your couple does this, but I know many older people here in rural areas slather on the butter heavily on most anything. They use 1/16 - 1/8 inch cheese-like slices of butter/margarine on a piece of toast and the same goes for Mayo usage - which isn't really necessary in order to get a fatty-flavour into a meal. Just making small changes like that to their current diet is usually the easiest way to get change to occur.

As far as my basic research has lead me, getting good sources of omega 3's is essential as it blocks inflammation. Using dark greens(spinach) for sandwiches instead of lettuce and adding a tsp of freshly ground flax to oatmeal or eggs works pretty well. Improving mental function I haven't studied much, though I recall vague memories of Green Tea studies.

Fruits are the typical issue of North American diets partly because enough people think that drinking apple juice is the same as eating an apple - "got my Vit C for the day". Yet they miss out on all those antioxidants and other great things included in fresh fruit. I find it easiest to introduce fruit into a person's diet by incorporating it with water. Lemon and Kiwi water are what I usually recommend while adding small amount of honey if necessary for flavour.

You mentioned bits of their meal plan, but haven't included their sugar intake via snacks or deserts. Regardless, those are other places where fruits and chopped&ground nuts can fill in the gaps and possibly reduce inflammation, constipation and improve brain function overall.
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
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This is kind of fun: https://www.thepaleomom.com/berry-terrine/. I think any grass fed gelatin would work.

 
Burra Maluca
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I've recently had to adjust all the meals in our house to allow for my 80-year-old husband's reduced appetite to ensure that they are lighter, tastier, and as healthful as possible.

We invested in a spiralizer and many of our meals are now based on noodly-looking vegetables, most of them straight from the garden.

This is what he chose for his birthday lunch - yesterday's was similar only without the little taco-style boat things, so it was even lighter. Ideally it would be with a green salad instead of those boat things.



The noodles are actually zucchini, carrot and sweet potato, with chorico, sweet peppers, mushrooms and a little salsa. The result is a very light, easy, delicious way to get good veggies eaten without burdening the appetite. 

Generally we have something like this for lunch - just fruit, served with real cream, or sometimes coconut cream.



I think the hardest thing is finding the right balance of what is good for their appetite and soul, and what is good for their body and brain.
 
Deb Rebel
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Jocelyn and others...

When you are choosing stuff for someone else, the issue of allergies and dietary restrictions comes up very fast.

If someone bought me butter I would be very sad as there is nothing I could do with it. I cannot have lactose or casein. ...

I do admit to buying some Smart Balance because it's one of the few things my local store DOES stock that I have an outside change of eating. I usually make my own vegan butter but a tub of that is for the emergency backup.

Getting rid of heavy grease and fatty foods, and try to cut the CORN out of the diet (corn syrup, corn syrup solids, and cornstarch) will help. For the older person, reducing aluminum. Including the right baking powder and getting them to switch from aluminum pots may help with dementia and Alzheimer's. Also if they use deodorant, get a non-aluminum type. Encouraging them into white meats, (chicken, turkey or fish) will also help, from the red meats. (I do not consider Pork a white meat)

Other things in this topic, great. And Burra, that food looks delicious. I love my spiralizer. My spouse is leery when I make anything noodly as it might NOT be pasta. Hehehe. He's learning.
 
James Freyr
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I want to share an experience I had with my in-laws. They're both in their mid 70's now, but three years ago, they took a trip to come visit my wife and myself. They got up at like 3:00am to hit the road early to beat traffic, stopped for breakfast, and then got back on the highway. My father in-law fell asleep at the wheel on the highway, crashed, and a couple helicopter rides later they make it to nashville under Vanderbilt's medical care. They came to live with us for four months while they heal. My father in-law is a very large 240lb man with high blood pressure and diabetes and a couple other lingering health problems. During their stay, they ate what my wife and I eat. We did not have to nor did we cook any special foods for them. Our meals consisted of meats and veggies, soups, pasta, rice, you know, average everyday common dishes, but made with vegetables from our garden, or things we had canned, or organic fruits and vegetables from the store. All meats in our house come from local farms and are pasture raised. Beef comes from my neighbor, their belted galloways only eat what's growing in the pasture, or hay in the winter, never grain. Pork is pastured, but I believe aside from food scraps they do get a ration. Chickens come from my beef neighbor, they're raised on an organic ration.

By the time they are leaving and heading back home, my father in-law had lost 40 lbs, no longer needed his blood pressure medication (doctors took him off that) and went from taking two oral diabetes medications to control his blood sugar to taking one medication (under doctors orders). I had to punch two new holes in his belt for him to keep his pants on. He looked better, felt better, and was taking less pills. All is good. Within 6 months of them being back home, he gained all the weight back, the high blood pressure returned, and had to start taking the diabetes medication again that the doctors quit prescribing him. The reason for this is change is too difficult for them. After living a life of the foods their used to eating, they didn't want to change, even after experiencing the results of dietary change and how being healthy and feeling good is achieved thru high quality food, not medicine. When my wife found out about her dad returning to his unhealthy self and she asked him about it, it literally did not bother him. He said things like "this weight is normal for my body" and "the food I eat is fine".

There's two things going on with my father in-law. 1 is he doesn't care and he's complacent with his unhealthy body, and 2, change is too difficult. Change is easy when someone else is doing the cooking and all you gotta do is sit down at the dinner table. But they reverted back to their habits of eating processed, prepared foods. We can't force them to change, so it is what it is. He thinks he'll be dead in a few years anyway so he has this "why bother" attitude.

Jocelyn, I wonder if you may encounter complacent stubbornness with this senior aged couple. I can maybe, sorta, kinda understand that after a life of eating a certain way, one may think "why change now?" I wish you all the best in helping this couple, and that they are open minded to eating better. If they don't currently take a multivitamin that has amino-acids, that would be a great place to start with possibly having an affect on improving mental health. The brain is a chemical organ, and needs minerals and amino acids so the body can make the brain chemicals necessary for healthy function. Hope this helps!

 
Judith Browning
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James, we had something similar to this
We did not have to nor did we cook any special foods for them. Our meals consisted of meats and veggies, soups, pasta, rice, you know, average everyday common dishes, but made with vegetables from our garden, or things we had canned, or organic fruits and vegetables from the store.


My mom lived with us for nine years with alzheimer's and became the most adventurous eater I had ever seen.  On her own though, and when dad was still living, her cooking and eating habits had become narrower and narrower.  She was willing to enjoy food and never refused to taste something at our home, although sometimes after some particularly hot enchilada's she would hold on to her tongue wondering what was going on...

Because we had total control it made it easy for us to slip in quality vegetables and fruits and some supplements along the way.  I think it would be much harder without dementia to convince someone to change old old eating habits and maybe especially to shop and cook in a new way.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I have hired approximately 600 men from the bottom of the labor market. Guys who never took the time to develop a skill set that would allow them to not become my helpers. Most of them had terrible eating habits.

Chocolate bars, chips and whatever hot food is available under the glass at 7-Eleven, washed down with coffee and cigarettes. They also ate the free stuff donated to soup kitchens. Lots of donuts and other pastries.

I always have healthy food on hand. When presented with a properly balanced meal, most would eat it with gustto. There have been times where a guy will eat stuff provided by me for a month or more. It definitely improved their health, for a time. Once the job is over, everybody goes back to their old ways. It's not that they like eating that crap under the glass at 7-Eleven, they are just following the path of least resistance. These are guys who have followed that path, throughout life whether it comes to food, work or family responsibilities. They do whatever is easiest and most expedient at the time, without thought of tomorrow.

Getting people to eat healthier food is simple. Prepare it, and have it sitting in the fridge, or freezer. Given the choice between heating up something that is already made, or making something themselves, most will take the easier option.

My children experienced this from day one. When my daughter was visiting with friends recently, she noted that when she was little, she thought that dried fruit and frozen cherries, where sort of like candy. That's what was available. Of course she wanted junk from the store, and sometimes got it. More often, she would check the fridge and cupboard, and choose one of the things that was readily available. My kids are grown now, and they never have junk food on hand. They may pick some up for a party, but on any given day, if you check their cupboards, the bad stuff just isn't there.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Oh man, I am loving this thread! Sooo many good suggestions, examples and stories - thank you!!

The shepherd's pie is a perfect idea! (Though for those who like to get technical, some consider "shepherd's pie" made with lamb only, and "cottage pie" made with beef or other meats! I think I learned that on permies.com some where. ) They would love that and hiding extra nutritious things in it is brilliant.

Jarrett, sugar is likely a big part of their normal diet. You reminded me that I make some lovely date-nut bon bons (dates, nuts, spices, a pinch of miso, processed into a paste, rolled in a ball that is rolled in unsweetened coconut or other seeds or nuts) that are super delicious and a great alternative when trying to beat the sugar cravings.

Thyri, that terrine is gorgeous! I love making fruit juice gelatins with good, grassfed gelatin, though too much gelatin can be difficult to digest, so going easy, and/or filling with fruit like this example would help mitigate that.

Burra, thank you for chiming in with such beautiful pictures and examples! I think they'd enjoy the veggie noodles, too. I'll see what I can do!

Deb, good thoughts on allergies and dietary restrictions. This couple is fine with dairy, they even asked me to pick up cheddar cheese, so they weren't choosing Smart Balance margarine to avoid milk products. The aluminum issue is an important reminder, too! They'd asked for canned tuna for tuna sandwiches, and I couldn't buy that due to the mercury that is rampant in tuna - not great for mental function either! So I bought wild caught canned salmon instead.

James, wow. What a story with your in-laws! The stubbornness of "why change now?" is certainly there with this couple. I'll only be helping for a limited time, so if left to their own devices, they will likely revert as did your in-laws. Especially since fatigue is a very real issue for them due to many different things. When you're tired, you just want the easy button. And the known thing, nothing new. I hope to find a way that whatever care and support they have going forward includes real, whole foods.

Judith, what a great story about your mom holding her tongue and trying new foods! I love it.

Dale, preparing the food and making it super easy is the key! As are dried fruits and frozen berries and cherries - yum.

Gosh, I'm getting loads of great ideas! Thank you! My brain is a bit overtaxed these days, so trying to be creative with food for this situation seems like trying to solve a calculus problem without instructions.

I've recently learned that delirium (or a psychotic break) overlaid on dementia can be triggered by something physical. Put another way, if someone with dementia has a physical stress, such as not eating, dehydration, an infection, etc., it can trigger a delirium or other psychotic episode which could also be called a temporary/sudden worsening of the dementia. Sooo...in my view, keeping all physical systems in as optimal shape as possible becomes....paramount...crucial...perhaps even essential.

 
 
Deb Rebel
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I have a friend caring for a parent in advanced Alzheimer's. One issue that crops up ALL the time is the person won't drink enough water, or eat anything good for them. They make about one trip to the ER a month for dehydration despite the efforts of family and hired caregivers. Offer them beer, they'll drink it, or Pepsi Zero (or similar)and they'll drink it. Water, nah. And try to feed them good food (pork chop and veggies) two bites and they're 'full'. Let them find a pint of ice cream and they'll eat it all, right now.

Another is EXERCISE. Are they getting ANY at all? Most in the older years will prefer to sit, and they literally wither away until they can't walk for any distance at all. The person I mention just passed 84, about 10 years into Alzheimer's and if you can get them to walk 30 steps at a time you are doing GOOD.

Walking is good exercise and will stimulate thirst, appetite, and convince the innards (digestive tract) to work properly. One thing I learned at hospital in my 20's. Gas? Walk. Constipation? Walk. In my later years with blood sugar issues... if in doubt, walk (and drink a pint of water before and after).
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Excellent points, Deb. Exercise is certainly part of the entire physical system. You would think it's hard to look at food and eating without that, though I seem to forget about body movement too often. 

And I feel for your friend caring for the 84 year old with Alzheimer's. Uff.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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In my past life, I was a gym owner and exercise instructor. I sold my gym and retired to the peacefulness of homesteading. Aaaah!

We had many older clients in our gym (one was 95 and still driving!). Many older people need help with balance. They can't just "start exercising". That could result in serious injury. During our initial consultation, we would evaluate their current activity level and assess their needs. We would often recommend starting with Brain Gyms. (For books, teaching materials and to locate an instructor click here.)

These exercises are meant to train/retrain hand - eye coordination, improve balance, improve mental clarity and concentration, by incorporating specific movements that engage both hemispheres of the brain. These simple exercises are for people of all ages, but I found them extremely useful for elderly clients. I say simple, but please have patience. One of my clients, for several months after starting, would cry in frustration. She said, "I know what you're telling me to do and it's so easy. I just can't get my body to do what my brain is telling it." The one exercise that had here stumped for so long was called Cross-Crawl. This is marching in place and touching your opposite hand on the raised knee. (Right hand to left knee/Left hand to right knee.) Everytime her right knee went up, so did her right hand ("puppetry").She finally got it and was then crying tears of joy and relief. She advanced rapidly in the program and later became one of my volunteers helping others like herself.

There are many examples of these exercises online. Some good Level 1 exercises here. Do research this yourself and see if you think this couple would be willing to "play". Good luck!

As far as anti-inflammatory foods, the Anti-inflammatory Diet by Dr. Andrew Weil has great ideas for food choices and recipes.


 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Karen, that is awesome! I'd heard about a study where they looked at nuns in abbey, where the environment and food were similar, but a few lifestyle choices were different. The nuns who played more games or crossword puzzles, etc., were less likely to contract Alzheimer's. So I've been trying to think of brain activities to help so these resources and exercises are PERFECT. Thank you!!
 
Anne Miller
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Jocelyn, I am really enjoying this topic!

Karen, thanks for the info on the brain games.

One thing I have been wanting to mention is that this couple may be trying to live frugally.  Some people in their 70's and 80's did not earn the fantastic salaries that people are experiencing today.  So food costs and living expenses are quite shocking to them.

Another thing that I wanted to mention is that they may want meals that are easy to prepare and take only 15 to 30 minutes to prepare due to physical exhaustion.  Having vegetable already peeled and cut up would help.  Also having meat that is already cooked so that all they need to do is measure and add.

I liked Dale's Shepherd pie idea.  Also stir fries might help. 
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Anne, yes! Already prepared, or chopped foods, or easy to prepare foods are crucial right now.

The frugal factor is a big one, too; especially when facing some very expensive in-home care or assisted living expenses. Organic prices are daunting to this couple, so unfortunately, they generally avoid the organic foods.

In a local grocery, I found in the produce department had little containers of already diced onions, spiralized zuchinni, mixed veggies pre-chopped for stir fry, that kind of thing. Which is excellent, though none of these were organic, and of course they cost more than the whole, unchopped veggies. We're a land of many choices, though not always perfect choices, and I'm thinking that if the pre-chopped veggies help up their vegetable game; well, that's a step in the right direction.

The vegetable and general nutrition from diet that Dr. Wahls talks about here (thanks to Burra for the original share of this on permies.com elsewhere) is what I dream about achieving:

I find it remarkable that TEDx now has a message on this video that this "health advice" has been flagged as controversial or some such.
 
Nicole Alderman
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On the topic of butter/margarine, if they still are hesitant to use butter, you could try Nutiva's "Shortening" (https://www.amazon.com/Nutiva-Organic-Shortening-Original-Ounce/dp/B00KRFLH5U/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8 ) It's made of coconut and palm oils and tastes pretty good. You can find it at Fred Meyer's in the "Organic"/"Nutrition" aisle. My husband has Crohn's and can't handle butter, and I can't eat it either due to breastfeeding an acid reflux baby. So, we use this stuff a lot. I don't know if the flavor is similar to margarine or not, as I haven't eaten margarine since I was like 7 and my mom stopped buying it (to my father's dismay). But, it has a good buttery flavor and works well on toast and in recipes that call for butter.

I wish I had more suggestions for you. We tried for 3 years to help my Mother-in-Law (who lived in the apartment above us) to eat healthier, and my sister-in-law has been trying for the past 7 years. As far as I know, she still drinks soda and energy drinks and eats junk, even though she had part of her stomach removed due to stomach ulcers. She was told after the surgery to no longer drink carbonated beverages. She didn't listen. The soda ended up creating a giant hernia. It was so sad to see.

My grandparents are in their 80s and 90s. My grandmother is one smart cookie, and when we mentioned that black cherry juice might help with her joint pain and sleeping, she started making cherry jello. But, my grandfather rarely gets out of his chair and neglects to drink water. Sometimes, I think, you can only do what you can do. Sometimes they will listen, and sometimes they won't. It's heart breaking to see someone not take care of their health. But, we cannot force them, and we have to let them make their own choices. All we can do is give them the help they will accept.

I think being there and providing food that is close to their favored foods, but more nutritious with more fruits and veggies, will help a lot. If you can make a bunch of "freezer dinners" that they just have to heat up, that might also work in keeping them eating healthier foods, at least until the food runs out. 

Since my husband is on the SCD diet, which is a very anti-inflammatory diet, let me see if I can write down some of the really easy dishes are.

* "Banancakes." Pretty much take 1 ripe banana and 1 duck egg (or two chicken eggs) and blend it up. Add some vanilla extract and a dash of salt if you wish. Fry in a pan just like pancakes. Or, even lazier option. Mix up a bunch of bananas and eggs at the same ratio and pour into muffin liners. I haven't tried this yet, but I'm nigh unto positive that it will work. I'm waiting for the weather to cool down before using the oven!

* Giant stew. Get meat, potatoes, carrots, and all sorts of veggies with lots of onions and garlic (alliums are great for the immune system!) and throw it in a pressure cooker or slow cooker for a healthy stew that's easy on the digestive system and easy to chew.

* Smoothies! throw in frozen berries, coconut milk, almond butter, bananas &/or mangoes, beet greens (and maybe their roots) into a blender and mix it up. You can even add in powdered collagen for extra protein--it's also very soothing to the gut and good for joint pain. Smoothies are great for summer, pretty effortless,  and really tasty!
 
Lori Whit
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My parents are making an effort to eat more veggies and less meat as they've noticed a difference in their health when they don't eat well.  Not everyone is willing / able to change, though, and they've always been at least somewhat interested in healthy eating. 

One thing I'd say is that B-vitamins are so important to mental and emotional well-being.  They're very lacking in a lot of food.  Niacin, I'm finding, is particularly important for depression, anxiety, and more.  Not all sorts of vitamins agree with every person (as I've found out the hard way), but it's very difficult for the body or mind to function optimally when continually deprived.  The MINIMUM daily requirement is often not enough...and many people don't get even that!  So if you can offer them some kinds of vitamins, that may be some help.

One thing I'd mention is that older people often don't hydrate well enough.  Reminders to drink enough water / tea / other non-sugary beverages is really important.  As far as I can tell, the latest research (as well as lots of longer-lived folks) agree that coffee isn't harmful and might be helpful, which is another way to hydrate.

Anyway, I really hope they'll agree to stop eating margarine and let you get them butter.  (I assume that you're offering it to them for free?  Or is there a pride issue with accepting help?)

Anyway, best wishes for them and you and all who are trying to juggle nutrition / health / finances / aging issues.
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
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Be judicious about raw veggie juices. I was on a juicing kick at one point and even though I love cooked beets I found raw beet juice didn't agree with me. Sometimes it's just a matter of needing to introduce things gradually. Probably a good rule of thumb in general. Drastic, abrupt dietary change can really mess with some people's systems, especially if they don't usually get much variety.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Ah, yes, great tips, Nicole, Lori and Thyri! I've been enjoying the 'banancakes' recently, myself.

Unfortunately, I was only able to cook for this couple for one week, and I did what I could. The margarine was in the fridge because a relative whom they trusted brought it, so they thought it was healthy because of that. And, I think they liked that it's spreadable even when refrigerated, which butter isn't. :-/

With this thread, I hope to guide others who might cook for them AND for any others who might have similar concerns for other senior citizens.

Today, I found a great article on protecting memory and the affect of prescription drugs on memory and dementia.

It deepened some information I'd first heard about choline in The Perfect Health Diet by Paul Jaminet Ph.D. & Shou-Ching Jaminet Ph.D. (affiliate link to the book on Amazon).


From the book, I learned that Americans are typically deficient in choline.

Then, the article I found, Are Your Medications Causing Memory Loss by Al Sears, MD talks about how medications can block a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. And get this, acetylcholine needs choline to work properly! Pastured eggs, pastured meats (especially organ meats), and if I recall correctly from the book, even pastured butter, all provide choline in the diet. (Google says vegan sources of choline are soy, quinoa, broccoli, pasta, and rice.)

Lemon balm was one of the five suggestions for improving memory in the Dr. Sears article. This was news to me! I think I'll go make a cup of lemon balm tea now...
 
Deb Rebel
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Juices:

Grapefruit often causes issues with medications being taken. Some stuff even comes with warning stickers not to consume grapefruit juice while taking this stuff.

Cranberry and other acidics are often full of sugar to make them taste better. They can lower the PH of the urine helping with issues with the urinary tract but. There may be too much sugar to handle.

Beets have been reported to cause issues too, especially juice.

Juices are by themselves usually high fructose. And often have sucrose added, especially in the form of corn syrup. Making your own can get around the additional sucrose.

A lot of elderly may be having blood sugar issues as well so the sugars in the juices and/or fruit need to be taken into consideration. There are many other beverages that are high sugar, but do not ignore that issue either (reformed diabetic here, this was a major issue and still is)
 
Angelika Maier
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I would simply advise them to leave some bad things out like the margarine. Or you bring them a tray of home made bickies and tell how bad the fat in the shop bought version is. Generally older people can't digest as well so cooked vegetables are often better than too much raw. Bone broths are good and not too demanding to make, they could use chicken carcasses too. Liver is healthy and easy to prepare. Porridge is good for you too but the oats have to be soaked. Try that they replace bad bread by proper sourdough if available.
 
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