If you’re caring for someone who is older, or frail, there’s a strong chance they are not eating as much as they used to. Here we share 3 ways to help your cared one finish their meal.
There’s a whole host of reasons for this, perhaps their dentures don’t fit well, they might have trouble with arthritis and handling utensils, their sense of smell or taste has deteriorated, their mind doesn’t let them remember how to cook certain things, they’re dealing with swallowing problems or problems in their mouth, or perhaps they are eating alone and the list goes on… And if they’re not eating as much as they used to, you might notice their pants are not fitting as well, their face a little more sunken in, they might be stumbling a little more than normal. Hmmm, sound familiar?
In my nutrition practice, food is my numero uno, and concentrating on our relationship with food makes up my founding principles. So I’m here to gently say the most important factor when we notice eating might be changing, is to firstly concentrate the relationship with food and mealtimes. And I’m here to tell you this is not complicated at all, and we can do this so super subtly and see positive change.
So I have 3 really easy ways to focus on the relationship with food, to ultimately help you help your cared one to eat more at mealtimes. It’s so important to have a positive and lovely relationship with food, as the benefits to eating (and finishing) a beautiful nourishing meal when we’re frail or older is just so enormous (I need a whole ‘nother blog to go there).
These 3 simple things are like a fusion of flavours that work so deliciously together. The first thing is to have a mealtime companion who has time to sit and the ability to make conversation. This dovetails into making sure your cared one is sitting upright at a dining table that is set and ready for a meal with enough room for everyone and enough room to safely eat. And finally, the companion creates conversation by using a talking tool, so for example a photograph, a trinket, a child’s drawing, a vase of flowers, an item that will create conversation.
The speciality of a companion makes the meal time special, and creates meaning. The speciality of the table setting creates ceremony and safe eating habits. And the talking tool creates conversation which slows down bites, slows down chewing, and elongates the meal time. And this beautiful combination establishes a positive relationship with food, will see your cared one clean their plate, and the benefits of eating the entire meal will hugely elevate nutrition and wellbeing.
So those 3 ways to help your cared one finish their meal;
1. mealtime companion
2. set and sit at a table
3. a talking tool
I hope you find empty plates and full bellies after reading this. I want to acknowledge that these ideas might not be something you can swing into action all at once or overnight, and that’s ok. Try one or all the suggestions in the best way your know-how with your cared one, and be kind to yourself when giving it a go.
Some useful links:
Megan’s curation of recipes designed for her mother-in-law living with Alzheimers and vascular dementia. They can help you too – https://www.meganvangenderen.com/omas-special-recipes
Carers Circle article on Cooking for one – healthy recipes for older people –
Carers Circle article on Your parent’s doctor – your partner in caring –
A version of this article originally appeared on Megan van Genderen’s blog – https://www.meganvangenderen.com/blog. Reproduced with permission.
Photo credit: Mealtime with Arty and Oma, by Megan van Genderen (supplied)