Make ahead meals for Elderly
Our Uncle is coming home from a short stay at an assisted living/rehab facility. Unfortunately, he’s not been eating well on his own and he has finally agreed to my preparing him meals to heat up for himself once he gets home.
Any suggestions for nutritionally rich meals, which can be prepared in advance, and heated in the microwave. (that’s about as much ‘cooking’ as he’s able to do)
I was thinking of, turkey meatloaf with beans & veggies hidden in it, veggie lasagna, salmon cakes with a fresh veg on the side, and some sort of chicken and dumpling or chicken and noodle creation w/ lots of veggies.
He’s a relatively ‘plain’ eater. Any other suggestions/ ideas are greatly appreciated!
cgarner, how about simple broths that any number of vegetables, rice or noodles could be added into, or hearty but not overly rich soups, beef stews come to mind as does casseroles of rice, potatoes or filled pastas prepared ahead to have on hand. Have nice whole grain bread in the freezer that he can toast by the slice. Also good for soup and sandwich (like grilled cheese or an open-faced turkey sandwich) combos.
Best to him.
Steel cut oats can be made a quart or so at a time and stored in a plastic container in the fridge. When he wants breakfast, he just spoons some into a bowl and nukes it and then adds milk, sugar or maple syrup.
Hard boiled eggs can be made a dozen at a time and left in the fridge in the carton and snacked on whenever.
I would make sure he had a supply of ensure and or energy bars too when he is just not interested in heating anything up.
Rice casseroles, pilafs and risottos hold very well in the fridge.
Noodle casseroles, spaghetti and hamburger helper-like dishes hold well too.
The rice and noodle casseroles would freeze well in a zip lock or Foodsaver bag.
Soups in a 1 quart container can be poured into a bowl and nuked. Premium canned soup and any kind of bread especially french bread is very comforting. Ham Hocks and beans or ham and bean soup to those north of the Mason-Dixon line stores well.
Put some Marie callander's pot pies in his freezer. He can microwave those. If you would rather make individual pot pies, I'm sure that would work too.
You don't say anything about freezing these meals, so I'm assuming you live close enough that you can make and take every few days. Also, I don't know how old your Uncle is.
+ 1 Everything you and HillJ said for hot meals. But now that it's getting warmer, don't forget cool things that will keep in the fridge a few days and don't even require a microwave.
A couple of deviled eggs, chopped salad with tomatoes (peeled and seeded, if needed) and dressing in a jar that he can just take a handful and dress, potato or pasta salad with whatever veggies he'll eat (par-cooked carrot dice, cucumber, tomato), bean salad (3 or up to 8), shredded roasted chicken, cubed cheese.
My experience with my elders is that they often don't want a sit-down meal but would prefer to graze over the length of a day. So have nutritionally-rich snack foods available so Uncle can grab a chunk of cheese, a strawberry, a whole-grain cracker, a shred of chicken.
My elders do not like any flavors of Ensure but they like chocolate Boost. Maybe a chocolate Boost milkshake with his ice cream of choice while you're there with him visiting and filling his fridge, and put the leftover in the freezer for another time,
he's 81, and he does live close by.
Our son passes right near his house on his way to work, so I figured I'd stock him with a couple days at a time worth of meals.
He's an odd bird
I mentioned him here in conversation before, he was eating the exact same thing for breakfast and lunch every.single.day, for YEARS (and was eating fairly healthfully too)
Problem is, that he got it in his head that his sugar was high (we don’t know why he thought this) so he cut out eating certain things that he “thought” were not good for him
And then left him self with eating
Breakfast: Toast with butter
Lunch: yogurt with blueberries
Dinner: Grocery store made macaroni & Cheese
this is what he'd been eating, every day for the last 6 months or so, and he refused meals from me, because he he decided he didn’t “like” the texture of chicken or beef anymore, and couldn’t be bothered with fish, because it made the microwave smell bad and certain vegetables were “too hard to digest”
Before he went into the rehab, I made him chicken noodle soup, meatloaf and a portion of salmon… all with sides of fresh veggies, rice or mashed potatoes.
He said the salmon was “terrible, like a board” but then I found out that he heated it for ten minutes!
So instructions are going on everything I send over now
I could do a beef stew, if I cooked the meat till falling apart tender, he’d eat it then
I like the steel cut oats idea, very tasty (one of my faves) and good for you
They tried to give him Ensure at the rehab, he didn’t like it
I went thru this with my Grandmother, she hated the stuff too
I’d was pretty good at smoothies and milkshakes for her with protein powder snuck in when she wasn’t looking
Thanks for the ideas! My husband said “why can’t you just pack up our leftovers and send to him the next day?” which is another idea, but that’s not going to work 100% of the time, so I have to have some back ups, and breakfast and lunch ideas
Also thinking wheat muffins w/ fruit, like apples, bananas, or blueberries and maybe some whole wheat waffles and pancakes he can heat up and eat.
Posted as you were posting this. You do have a set of challenges, don't you? Instructions are clearly the way to go. And if you do find some things he likes (very soft beef stew or whatever) you can make some extra portions to keep in your freezer and send over days when you are crunched for time. Good luck!
Sounds like you are an angel!
Sounds, too, like your dear uncle might have denture/tooth problems common to the elderly that make him shy away from anything too "textured" or chewy.
My mother liked a lot of the microwavable Stouffers entrees in a pinch; might be good to have in the freezer?
Nutrament supplements (strawberry, vanilla and chocolate) were faves of my aunts.
cgarner - oh boy, he sounds EXACTLY like my father, especially the blood sugar idea and the elimination of foods. I begged my dad to listen to the doctors but he knew better.....
My dad absolutely would not accept any meals from me but I did do pre-cooked meals for my grandmother after rounds of chemo treatments. She and my grandfather liked simple food.
Some thoughts and ideas that they liked -
Smaller portions (sort of a given but I had to learn just how small)
unless there is a medical reason of keep the fats down, I would go for full-fat versions of things, lasagna with meat instead of veggie lasagna, to keep the calorie counts up.
Watch the density of the food. They found it hard to micro really dense meals like lasagna, it just took too long. Frozen food was even worse. Things like pasta and small meat balls or chunks of sausage reheated much easier.
pre-cut meat into bite sized pieces
My grandmother likes little snack boxes, for lack of a better word. Think Lunchables for adults - a container of a few grapes, a few pieces of cheese, nuts (if he can handle them) and a few crackers.
Would he pick at cold meats from the fridge? My grandparents likes sliced, roasted turkey for sandwiches. I would do them in the crock pot and pre-slice. You could also add the turkey to soups.
I think rice freezes well enough. My grandfather "hated" rice until it started arriving via my meals. I didn't do anything special to it, just added it to the cooler for an extra carb.
If he is rejecting your food, what about a trip to the grocery store to let him pick out frozen meals? A lot of us Chowers cringe at the idea but my father (would be 80 now) and grandparents never tired of the novelty of frozen dinners. The portions tend to be small and they are sort of fool-proof.
Is he able to do basic cooking? My mom bought my grandparents one of those George Forman grills and they thought it was the best invention ever and were able to fish and chicken breasts on their own. The clean up was easy enough that they didn't feel overwhelmed
I feel your dilema, I too have the daunting task of preparing meals for an elderly gentleman that has "sugar" on the brain.
I always keep fresh fruit on hand so when the "sugar" attacks come he can grab one quick. I also do pancakes, ( multi-grain, fruit and nut, plain ) he loves them and the reheat great. Just for something different I served him chickend and rice quesidillas last night with just a little picodegallo, and low and behold he loved them. They weren't spice, but they were a little different then normal dinner. Sometimes we all like something different. Worse thing that could happen is they dump it in the trash and have a bowl of oatmeal.
Good luck with this, I know it is definately a challenge, but we all do what we can do!!!
What's the "sugar" issue? If he's a diabetic then it helps to learn what foods increace his blood sugar, and avoid them. And don't follow the rest of this post, as if this is the issue I'm totally wrong.
If he loves sugar (with no immediate health concerns) IMHO; let him eat cake. As people age most lose some of their sense of taste and they want something that tastes strong and sugar is something they can taste. If in 5-10 years they "could" have a health concern from eating sugar - so what?
I feed my Dad (87) and frankly he eats what he wants, and he doesn't really want to eat anything. He's lost 35 lbs this year and any calories I can get into him, I do. I buy Peeps when I see them, he loves them. I buy pie, encourage him to snack on those horrible packaged cakes and chips. I also buy Boost and Ensure flavors he like and encourage him to take a multivitamin (he doesn't). He won't be here in 10 years...what's the harm?
He doesn't really HAVE a sugar issue. He noted that his blood sugar went up two points in two years and decided himself that he has a blood sugar issue. My concern isn't even the sugar issue, it's making sure that he gets at least some semblance of proper nutrition... (if that makes sense)
Partly it's a matter of what he likes to eat. All of your suggestions sound good although I might go meat rather than veggie lasagna (depending of course on his tastes). My oldster is pretty happy picking on a rotisserie chicken as long as I get it from the place where they are not too salty. And he loves rice so I got him a tiny rice cooker. Days when I am there, I put everything in so he can just flip the switch half an hour before he wants to eat that night. I have also had good luck with lamb shank stew (with a bunch of veggies in) which freezes and reheats beautifully, but then that has always been a favorite of his. He likes the frozen, nukable mashed potatoes quite a lot. Sometimes he likes spaghetti and is willing to cook it if there is a nice meat sauce to put on it that he can just nuke. As to the grazing, I think it depends -- my father spent his whole life thinking that eating between meals was BAD so now when he desperately needs the calories it never occurs to him, even when I leave out tempting little bowls of nuts or berries or things like that. Good luck, some of it will just be trail and error.
you've already gotten a lot of good tips here. cottage or shepherd's pies can be layered into loaf-sized casseroles (so you can make smaller portions, tho it doesn't sound like he will be bothered by repeating meals!) with spinach and lentils besides the usual ground meat and mashed potatoes, and make a really hearty meal. my oldster (and my mom before she went) can still eat these. and my dad's a very plain eater - flavor is the enemy! - so you can make these as bland as you like.
and as far as the Ensure, my mother didn't like it either, so i got her Carnation instant breakfasts in a can, and they were surprisingly lower in sugar than a lot of other supplements but had high caloric content. http://www.totalhomemedical.com/feedi...
good luck with your uncle - you're doing a good thing!
I don't know if you have one or not, but my food saver was a godsend when I was traveling for DH. I would make up normal meals in advance, then place a complete meal (gravy and all) in a plastic "take out" container and vacuum seal it. They stack neatly in the freezer and you can take it out and defrost (or not) and heat in the microwave, boil in the bag (works well with spaghetti portions). Very versatile. Just use precise reheating instructions. This leaves you open to making most any meal - even if it is your leftovers - into a good meal for the Mr.
And bless your heart. Mr. Uncle is very lucky to have you!
I would just ask him what he wants. It has been my experience that sometimes things get thrown out if it is not what they want and don't want to hurt your feelings. I have cooked for 2 sets of parents and a grandparent all in their 80s and out of the five only one ate most of what I took to them. They can have issues with their teeth, alterations in taste, and just preferences they develop for who knows what reason. We make things my dad likes now and keep the freezer stocked so he can pull something out that matches what he wants to eat at the time.
only problem is, a lot of the time, the older they get, they can't eat a lot of what they want. as wekick said, teeth become an issue. my dad can't chew steak anymore, which he loves. hell, my sister had to finally resort to putting a lovely piece of tender tri-tip into the mini-chopper the other night! also, his tastes have changed, age and/or meds, he really can't take things with almost any kind of spice or herb. so, things he used to like don't work for him anymore. but yes, he has to like what he eats or he probably won't eat it. no one, at any age, i think, likes to think of food as purely medicine.
Just beginning care for my mom, who lives in a senior housing complex. She just wants to nibble. She only wants to eat the things she wants to eat, nutrition/balance be damned. The folks there seem to want bland, easily eaten, salty food. Vegetables need to be soft. White carbs are craved. They all seem to like overly sweet desserts. My mom doesn't always like soup because it reminds her of being sick or in the hospital. There are also issues with going too long without eating, so something tempting is good.
Sandylc, I so know of what you speak. My mom was in the hospital for many months fighting a staph infection from a hip replacement disaster. She is only now in a rehab. She has Parkinson's Disease and is on a cocktail of meds, which have no doubt altered her sense of taste. The food at the rehab is bleak for her, as it is a minced/soft foods diet, to combat swallowing issues connected with the Parkinson's. I have been making soups from scratch, with chunky vegetables and chicken, stews and other foods to offset the bland stuff she's being served there. I once made a carrot, parsnip and ginger puree and she hated it. I was stymied at first, but then realized that the ginger was probably too powerful for her tastebuds, which have not only been dulled from her months of infection and antibiotics, but also by the other drugs she must take. What is most frustrating, though, is that what she craves is the salty, packaged convenience foods that she's relied on for years. Cooking was never really her thing. It is only as an independent adult that I have moved away from all the mixes, packages, cans and frozen stuff that she and my dad live on. She does appreciate the foods I make from scratch, and marvels at the flavors, but when she asks my dad to bring her treats, they are often junky, like Pringles, cookies, canned California olives, salty deli meats, challah bread. I'm positively thrilled that she eats and enjoys the wide variety of vegetables I sneak into her soups and stews. I don't even tell her what herbs or vegetables I've used, unless she specifically asks.
The mister stopped by on his way home from work last night, right at their dinner time. Uncle was eating what Mister described as chicken with some kind of glop on it
I said, well he's eating chicken, right?
He asked what dishes or kinds of food he'd want me to make for him and I think the thought of "anything" was overwhelming, because his answer was "whatever, it's gotta be better than this, right?"
:-( I feel terrible he's eating bad food!
he likes the idea of salmon patties and mashed potatoes are his favorite, no peas! he's not a fan
doesn't like "spaghetti" but will eat macaroni & Cheese (of course, his favorite!)
will take some chicken as long as it's cooked soft enough, pretty much anything as long as it doesn't stick in his teeth (bigtime issue for him, stuff sticking in his teeth)
he's not really able to do anything more than nuke a meal,
I do like the idea of making up little 'bento box' lunches for him, some fruit, a chicken or tuna salad wrap, etc...
he's getting cravings for dessert too, and has been asking for a second serving of dessert every night at dinner...
I didn't even think about the carnation drinks! My daughter will down one of those in the AM if she's running late to get out the door to school
Good call! Thanks!
Thank you all for the responses and the helpful tips.
He really wants to go back to living at home and can't wait to get out of the rehab
he's able to handle his own personal care and gets around well, so if we can just keep him fed and do his wash and take him around a bit, I'm sure he'll be much happier than the other option (long term care facility)
Well good, he is receptive, that is a great start. Your second helping of dessert comment made me smile. When my aunt moved into an assisted living facility she was initially mildly scandalized that everyone ordered two desserts every night. She never admitted it but I suspect she may eventually have gone over to the "dark side", because after a bit it never got commented on. The director told me that they made enough dessert every day for everyone to have two as a matter of course. One of the benefits of age is eating pretty much whatever you want. :)
Good luck you are a terrific person to take this on!
What about making a list and letting him choose from it, or even modify the choices based on his tastes (i.e. subbing one vegetable for another)? Open-ended questions can result in blank stares. Brainstorming takes a lot of effort and creativity that your uncle is probably short of after his time in the rehab. Just a few leading questions or suggestions might get his mind, and appetite, working.
As far as stuff sticking in his teeth, I have that issue too. (No, I'm not officially a senior yet! I have a lot of acid erosion.) I've found these things called Doctor's Brushpicks that are great -- they're super easy to use, much easier than floss but do a better job than floss, and they don't do any harm (I suspect wood toothpicks do). They just take a second to use. I've shown them to my dentist & he thinks they're fine. Rite Aid makes their own version of them. They're in with the floss & other dental products. I carry them with me because I need to use them nearly every time I eat.
Our "problem" is 93 years of age. He's been difficult to feed for over ten years (preferring ice cream, macaroni and cheese and chocolate cake) so I am entirely familiar with what you're experiencing.
I think it'll help you understand what you may be dealing with and, perhaps, provide a clue to a solution in your specific circumstances.
Don't forget soup of any type. My grandmother preferred soup for lunch and most commercial versions are lousy.
Don't overlook desserts. In similar situations I have heard much appreciation for tapioca pudding, bread pudding, baked custard, chocolate pudding (the cooked kind made from a box), and fruit crisps and cobblers. The soft puddings are especially welcome where chewing is compromised. Tapioca has been the big favorite (I use the Fluffy Tapioca recipe on the Minute Tapioca box, doubling it and using 3 eggs instead of 2 to increase nutrients).
I did this for late mother for years. She LOATHED cooking with a dark, violent passion. Every month I'd drop off dozens of pyrex with plastic lids (easy to get the top off with arthritis) of meatloaf, mac & cheese, stuffed peppers, cottage pie, lasagna, beef stew, soups, etc. At night she would put one in the fridge to defrost, nuke for dinner the next evening. Her doctor's concern was sodium, but we found that my home cooked meals naturally were better for her than her usual meals of fast food/freezer meals from the store. I distribited them to the other ladies in her apt building when she died.....
you're a good person.
i know everyone has already made a lot of fabulous suggestions, so i'll do my best not to repeat...
-baked fruit -- apples or peaches or nectarines... bake with some brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and a little juice. great breakfast... if the sugar isn't a "problem" for him...
-cottage cheese and noodles - my grandmother used to make this for my grandfather -- cooked egg noodles with cottage cheese, salt and pepper
-macaroni and cheese -- with protein plus pasta and maybe some cauliflower pureed into the cheese sauce (or blended with evaporated milk, as that's how i do my mac)
-deviled eggs and crackers?
-basic beef or chicken or turkey chili -- not too spicy with some cornbread
-french onion soup -- package it in cups with cheese pre-placed for melting; or separate with instructions to lay over the top
-maybe ravioli instead of lasagna -- easier portions less work for him?
-breakfast for dinner? -- maybe some waffles (sweet or savory) to toast or nuke; or french toast or pancakes
-pizza -- cold pizza = no heating :)
-does he like anything chinese? like dumplings or egg rolls or American chop suey?
-egg based quiches or frittatas -- puree in veggies or chop small
-vegetable terrine or pate with some lavash crackers
sorry if i've overlapped... i'm sure even if he doesn't express it directly, your uncle appreciates your efforts and care.
-- Veg such as cauliflower, asparagus that have been roasted at high temp w/olive oil, s&p. Easy to reheat.
-- Canned sliced potatoes that have been fried in a little butter at low temp. They are addictive, and also easy to reheat.
-- Tuna salad. With some whole grain bread he can make a nice little sandwich.
-- Spinach pie squares
-- You mention salmon cakes; I'd add crab cakes, with a side of lemon-dijon-mayo, or remoulade
-- Fruit salad.
I would think so too; I'm not a fan of much in the canned aisle. But the key is rinsing them first, and cooking super low so they get brown & crispy. Especially good with spicy mayo or remoulade. But I doubt my recommended condiments will make a difference if you don't like 'em in the first place!
I took care of my grandma in her 90s for several years. She had a wonderful happy life with no regrets or unfulfilled desires. At the time, also had my boy one night a week and every other weekend with my dad sometimes visiting.
Learned to cook at least two big meals and maybe a big pot of soup on the weekend. Cook for a crowd one day a week even if it is only you. To eat through out the week from fridge, and freeze some. For times when too busy to cook a fresh meal. Sounds simple works great. Could grab something good to eat and heat it in the oven at about 325 degrees F. Found re-heating just below the smoke point of most oils above boiling point in the oven gave the best food results. Some things like lasagna were possibly even better frozen than fresh when flavors had time to mingle and textures time to set. Side note: my grandma, a nurse for over 50 years had a HUGE fear eating food out of microwaves as said it superheated oils and molecules beyond what is normal in nature so felt not healthy. Helping her learned an oven worked better re-heating left overs than a microwave just took a few more minutes. It pays to plan ahead. Pizza for example is way better re-heated in the oven to be more like fresh later. She ate basic food (not much processed stuff) and could have been what helped her live to be almost 100.
Favorite food cooked on the weekend with a plan to be left over include:
spaghetti with lots of ground beef mixed with sausage, garlic cheese bread, and vegetable
lasagna with garlic cheese bread and vegetable
beef stroganoff over brown rice with water chestnuts for crunch with two side vegetables
chili, cornbread, and steamed peas / corn / carrots
beef stew with big chunks of vegetables, baked potato, and vegetable
chicken enchiladas, vegetables on the side, sometimes with a piece of corn bread
fettuccine alfredo with vegetables then chicken or shrimp, side vegetable, and garlic cheese bread
sirloin steak, vegetable, and twice baked potato
grilled chicken, vegetable, and scalloped potatoes
chicken & vegi crepes w/cheese sauce over (garlic, onion, celery, water chestnut). vegetables.
There are more. Those are a few of my meals "in the rotation" that come to mind quickly. If something is not liked by who you cook for remove it from the rotation.
Can cater to who you cook for. For my grandma. Broccoli was the favorite side vegetable (while ate all kinds). As a Finn she liked potatoes with gravy. Scalloped potatoes and twice baked potatoes made with cheddar cheese were also very popular sides with my grandma. She often nibbled on the side ahead of time pickles with olives. Loved fresh fresh fruit as snacks and with meals - apples, oranges, grapes, especially bananas and honeydew for potassium. She preferred venison, elk, ducks, and wild caught fish over something bought from a store. A great shot living in the country she was lucky enough to often have venison in her freezer and lived off it for decades. Drank juice of all kinds: orange, apple, V8, apricot nectar, ... lots of variety. With almost every meal liked a spoon or two of home made cranberry sauce (with berries we bought in the fall and frozen for the rest of her year). Drank green and black tea especially in the morning. Had one glass of red wine nearly every night with dinner. Lots of side salads. In general as many fruits and vegetables as possible. Loved desert. If cooked meat wanted a pan gravy. In general not too much salt, seasonings, or spices. Said wanted to taste the food. Would let her add her own salt and pepper at the table. Liked things cooked with five or fewer basic ingredients she could taste individually in the end result. Basic real food is what my nurse grandma liked.
Found a local grocery wholesaler to restaurants and bought covered re-usable tinfoil three part containers. Was United Grocers in Portland, OR then. Also think saw at Cash & Carry. Let your fingers do the walking. Maid of foil like a pie pan and about as deep, one main course compartment bigger than the other two. The tops were tinfoil covered cardboard that could be re-used but would show wear often browning in the oven after a few uses so buy extra lids. These same containers with lids are used by Meals-on-wheels all over Oregon, so call one of their elderly operations or similar if looking for where to buy supplies locally.
Made all kinds of soups to go on the side with the above. Including: chicken vegetable, vegetable beef barley (cook barley separately as expands 4x or more otherwise will drink all your broth also good added to chicken vegetable soup), navy bean ham, split pea, lentil, cream of broccoli chicken, smoked salmon chowder, and ... eat as much as could fresh. Extra was frozen 8 or so Ziploc sandwich bags in a Ziploc gallon freezer bag (double bagged). Fill sandwich bags by holding them open with a wide mouth quart canning jar and use a ladle to fill them. Zip closed in a way to get the air bubble out.
NOTE: be sure to use Ziploc-brand freezer bags and Saran-brand plastic wrap or other BPA-free solutions. If it doesn't say BPA-free it is not.
After a while could simply grab from the freezer a pick of many many balanced healthy multi-course tasty meals. Way better than frozen dinners (bigger portions to get enough to eat with your own better food with fresher ingredients). If hungry have soup with a meal. Soup makes great snacks. Eating lots of small meals throughout the day is better than eating a few huge ones - frozen meals make it easier to grab something good to eat when too busy to cook.
Three or more people eating a single meal could also have their three favorite things this way. Simply grab from the fridge and / or freezer when no time to make something fresh. Or to add a frozen meal to a fresh salad as we often did. Give it a try and enjoy great food you cooked easily with friends and family. Simply cook two big meals maybe a pot of soup once a week on a weekend (this way you clean up the kitchen just once a week when ready for it). Spend the rest of your week with your mind focused on what is important outside the kitchen.
Is how I did it with my grandma over a decade ago. Pre-cooked meals worked well from fridge and freezer. Supplemented cooking fresh food when had time. Plan to do again if ever need to. Also works great when work outside the house during the week and want healthy lunches. Fresh food is always better than refrigerated or frozen then re-heated in the oven when able. Your food is better for you than the prepared food available. Is good to know what you eat. Three course meals frozen are a great backup to grab as needed. This way a cook only needs to work in a kitchen once a week and several people can eat very well. Gain more time in life by planing ahead. Never be tied to your kitchen again.
To the OP, meals made ahead of time are not just for the elderly. While do make taking care of an elderly person easier. With pre-planned meals in the freezer the cooks are always ready to feed when someone is hungry.
Coupla thoughts for you. I help my MIL and FIL, both 83 with their meals.
Before talking food, I hafta say that my oldsters are more fretful about everything. So even if the food is good, they often have other worries on their mind and take it out at meal time. It takes lotsa patience...... the other issue is that eating alone is very depressing, but they are scared/unable to leave the house to go out with friends, and with our own family lives being so crazy it's hard to go and eat with them. If you can brainstorm about how your uncle could have some companionship while eating, maybe a senior's group or a lonely neighbor, or something?
---ensure and boost can give people the runs, esp if they don't eat a lot of other solid food. So be careful. He probly can't deal with THAT very well either. Also, the process of making even simple food is a good task/mind-engager for him. Don't be too quick to take that away, unless you have no other choice.
--I make a "no-sugar jam" (ha ha) out of dried fruit: prunes, raisins, apricots, cranberries, mangoes, dates, grated whole apple, apple juice and water. I cook it down in a crockpot, blend it with an immersion blender, and pack it in freezer containers. Dad uses this because he is on pain meds that are constipating, but you would not believe how good it tastes. And truly, there is no ADDED sugar in it. Full of vit's & min's, full of fiber, tastes awesome on toast. A bit of work, but I also make matrimonial squares for my own family in the process.
--consider liver sausage or pate. Very high in B vitamins and iron, which are usually lacking in old folks' diet. Old folks will often eat this because they grew up on it.
--old fashioned egg custard is easy, made in small pyrex bowls. Top with fruit or applesauce.
--I wrap slices of pizza and chicken fingers in foil and they heat it in the toaster oven.
--corn bread muffins, using something he likes such as cheese as an add-in. I use strained bacon grease and bacon bits sometimes in mine: they freeze very well!
--lentil soup (or navy bean, or split pea...) with sausage or ham or bacon. You can saute as many veggies as you like, and puree them with the immersion blender before adding the lentils and meat to "hide" the good stuff.
--chicken salad, salmon salad, tuna salad, egg salad made with mayonnaise (not salad dressing) are all good options. Use the food processor to mix in pickles, celery, maybe carrot & onion till it's smooth and easy to eat.
--banana bread, zucchini loaf, and carrot cake can all be made with ground nuts and ground flax seed so that they look plain but have some extra nutrition. Make some for your family with chocolate chips at the same time!
--my Dad absolutely LOVES Cambozola soft cheese.....maybe your uncle has a favorite like Brie or even cream cheese with his favourite crackers. When a person is eating very little, it makes sense to splurge on these high calorie luxury foods.
--Mom still likes canned pork & beans with European weiners, and so do I!!
Keep up the good work----you can make such an improvement in someone's life by helping out with the little things!!!
SUCH a good point about other issues contributing to fretfulness at meal time!!! Also about how depressing it is for someone who is used to having a life companion to eat alone. And patience, ahh, patience. Love the no-sugar jam idea, stealing it.....
The liver sausage or pate comment took me back -- my now-departed aunt spent a couple of years pretty much living on chopped liver, cheesecake, eggs and Ensure. She figured who the heck cared about cholesterol at 87 and she could get in a bunch of calories and protein with minimal effort and no chewing problems. Whatever works!
You are a dear. Had to echo that!
I've dealt with aging parents as well, along with beloved neighbors. Some stuff is exactly like some folks have posted, some not.
So here's my experience...
Soups and stews ROCK. They can be made ahead of time and heated up very easily. Flavorful and soft. Chicken soup, chicken in a pot, lentil soup, split pea soup - all are pretty gentle and full of protein and happy stuff. A gently spiced chile, sent over with saltines and shredded cheese is a treat as well.
Tubs of egg salad or tuna salad are mighty handy. Good on crackers, toast or celery sticks.
Do not under estimate the power of cottage cheese. ON a hot day, to have it topped with sliced fresh fruit, or spiced apple butter - awesome. Light but full of protein.
Mac and cheese. If you don't have the time to do homemade - Souffers is awesome. Simple but flavorful - very comforting.
Don't feel bad about sending over a slice of fruit pie or unfrosted chocolate cake. If they eat it with a big glass of milk they are having a very handy snack.
Which goes back to - does your Uncle drink milk? IT's handy to have in the house and with a pb&j - what's not to like?
And sometimes I"ve sent over a pile of cooked veggies and the cheese that goes best with it (asparagus and havarti or broccoli and cheddar) with specific instructions on how to heat it up (making an open faced sandwich with the havarti and cooked asparagus, or baking a potato and placing the cheese and broccoli on the split cooked potato and warming it up.) A very nice change from prefab food, but still simple, healthy, flavorful.
Rice pudding and bread pudding to have on hand as a snack or for breakfast.
Big hugs to you and best of luck!
There are some things I don't understand about the elderly and food. I am trying to keep my mother fed and happy right now, and some things just don't make sense. I am told that as a person ages, they lose the ability to taste; next, I am told that they prefer bland food. Huh?
The one thing that I hear that I know is true is that they want sugar. Oh, boy, does she want sugar.
And she claims to LOVE fruits/veg, and yet....
"Mom, what vegetables/fruits are you planning to eat today?"
And even GETTING them to eat....
At 4 pm:
"Mom, what have you eaten today?"
"I had toast!"
It's no wonder that she has no energy and her brain shuts down so easily! Reasoning does not work and I cannot be there every day to watch that she eats....
Everybody is different and has different tastes as you do when you are young but appetite is further complicated by dental issues, changes in taste, disease processes, memory issues, social issues(being alone), depression and on and on. Listen to what she says and observe for any problems and individualize what you make to her needs. You might also consult with her health care provider. She may need more supervision at this point.
Thank you. We just tore her from her home to go to "independent" care - adding more supervision now won't fly.
Regarding diet, it seems there are two distinct schools of thought. One, let them eat whatever they want, they've earned it. Two, guide, manipulate, coax.....fail.
Problem here, the first one is easy, but no one wants to do it. The second one is difficult and time-consuming, but we all try it.
I vote for the former. These people need to eat what they want...they're going to die regardless so let them go out with a smile on their face. (My father lived in a facility for people with dementia. There was a woman in her 90s, fairly with it, who'd been eating a bland mush diet for years yet always craved the burgers and hot dogs at the Sunday BBQ. One day the aide and I decided to give her what she asked for every week--hot dog with mustard and onions. She only ate half of it, in small bites, but you would have thought we'd given her ambrosia. Died a week later of a heart attack and to this day I smile at the expression on her face when she was enjoying that dog with a smear of mustard on her cheek.)
Agree with letting them eat what they want. The only exception would be something that is immediately detrimental, like causing GI distress. My dad wore himself out trying to get my mother to eat something with protein because she had very low protein in her blood. All she wanted was carbs and not the healthy ones, mostly those involving processed white flour. There can also be a control issue. When you have lost all control of things happening to you this is one area you can control. You can try to have your mom eat healthy but don't wear yourself and her out doing it. I have an aunt in assisted living and they provide the meals which she may or may not eat but we take her out and she can get what she wants or bring what she asks for.
Thanks for the advice! I guess I should loosen the reins a bit and let her enjoy - anything else really just causes strife.
The other component is that she's overweight and she likes to "handle it" by starving and then bingeing - she thinks that if she starves herself for a period of time, then she can "pig out" on something she loves. It really only messes with her blood sugar, moods, and brain. Regular meals and modest portions would probably be more enjoyable to her, but there's no convincing her!
O.K., finished complaining - thanks for your input - I will lighten up and see what happens!
Possibly have lots of good small meals for them to pick from and grab to heat in oven or on stove. That way they are in control of what they eat when. You by creating the frozen meals or left overs in fridge can control and know what they eat is good. Starving and binging is easy to fall into. Is best to eat five or six small meals no bigger than the palm of your hand. Explain is so the body never is hungry so never stores and is always in burn mode. You are right to encourage. Nurse grandma said a good breakfast wakes up our body from sleep (a hibernation in a way). Noticed grandma ate three meals a day. With snacks in between. When unable to do that earlier in the day is better than later. My focus was getting my grandma to eat a fresh healthy breakfast. Was often able to cook that for her in person as was there most days. When she ate a good breakfast she would then eat a normal lunch and dinner. Snacks like fruit, nuts, brownie, pie, ice cream once in a while were also something she enjoyed in moderation. Would not fill up sweets when ate well. Her favorite snack was German chocolate cake. She also liked to nibble the occasional chocolate covered cherry between meals. Sometimes her breakfast was a bowl of oatmeal with milk, butter, and sugar. Enjoyed omelets with meat and melted cheese with vegetables. Those were her two more common breakfasts. There was always juice and nuts around she made slowly go away. She ate more fruit and nuts than sweets. Bananas and honeydew melon were favorites for the potassium was told. She liked grapefruit with honey. While always had the fruit bowl you see painted and hers was always changing colors: various apples, oranges, tangerines, bananas, melon, grapes, ... It worked out alright for her mom and herself in the long run both living nearly a century.
You are so right.
If they get a good start to the day (eating) it's easier to continue it throughout.
And having pots of stuff they can scoop out for a snack, or fruit to grab and eat - huge. It gives them control and nutrition.
I've helped both ends of the spectrum - my mom can't cook anymore, but is still picky - to my neighbor who NEVER cooked, but microwaves well. And for both, the same truth works - choice, and EASY choices, make all possible.
So pre-made snacks or meals, where you don't expect them to eat them all, but they could if they wanted to, make a huge difference.
And we are so lucky, to have and to love.
I appreciate your idea that if you explain it to people they will follow it. We are talking with people who are older than us, have lived their own lives and have their own ideas of what's right. My dad often would starve himself for most of the day and then eat like crazy from dinner on. I finally gave up trying to change him because he held his tongue as far as how I ate and carried on my life. Once he had dementia, everything changed. But until then, it was his life and I tried my best to bite my tongue and mind my own business.
Bingo!!! Similar to raising kids, the more you push, the harder they push back. I try not to talk too much about what we are eating or what I've put in the fridge. I don't talk it up and I don't ask too many questions. Mostly I try to talk about something ELSE interesting to take the "pressure" off the food quirks.
I just want to say that all of you who cook for an elderly friend or relation are AWESOME. Too many seniors nowadays are on their own, just them and the mice, and they don't usually eat very well.
i have both professional and personal experience with people who need assistance re: nutritious meals
i think esp for gentlemen, it's important to start from what they have always eaten --- i know my senior father will not vary from the porridge (see above re: steel cut oats - esp Bob's Red Mill brand from greater Portland OR) ----and then lunch has to be slab of bread with either cheese or PB (natural, crunchy) and then he has to have taters for din.
so --- stay with what he knows. does he have any fav dinners?
low sodium (many people have health issues that are sensitive to sodium yet they live on M and M meatmarket stuff (or other product that might be hi in salts)
Microwaves are great til they fritz the food. But at least the micro stops after 2 min not like the toaster oven or the reg oven or the stove top disasters.
if he likes potato -- what about some double stuffed potato ... how do i say - you know how you bake then scrape out the white part, mix with cream cheese, other items - and then freeze and he can re-heat. I knoiw our 90 yr old neighbor likes the store-bought version.
he also likes cream chicken vol-au-vent ---- it's a puff pastry shell filled with cream chicken w/ green peas and small bits of carrot mixed in.
shortcake with whipped cream - calories, a bit of protein?
in the end, you are no doubt doing an admirable task - i say take guidance from what he already enjoys --- my elder dad will not vary --- and certainly no yogurt for him ; )
re: Georgia Strait
Electrolytes really have to monitored, especially with diuretics and other meds. In my last job, even without being on meds, I have seen many, many people in their 80s come in for surgery and when they had preop lab they had low or critically low sodium or potassium and no symptoms because it has happened over time and they tolerate it. I would keep tabs on that and consult with your health care provider to know whether to restrict sodium or not. Many people go "low salt", thinking that is healthy without knowing if they have a reason to and it can be dangerous.
Indeed, salt and potassium are at issue. Diuretics can cause people to lose more minerals than they are taking in from the small amount of food they eat. I had to post of list of salty snacks(one a day) for Dad to eat on his fridge, lucky guy. I wrote things he likes, such as black olives and pretzel buns.
It's very imp to have the dosage of blood pressure medication/diuretics checked at least once per year in case the dosage is becoming too high. This can cause fainting as well as electrolyte imbalances.
The nurse should have told him to drink the water but eat the chips.
I found that certain seniors had a billygoat like aversion to learning how to use a microwave oven. Didn't want it, wouldn't learn the difference between seconds and minutes on the dial, didn't appreciate that it couldn't burn the house down.
They had always used a toaster oven and returned the carefully chosen microwave for cash when they were youngsters in their 70s. So when the 80s hit, their habits were ingrained.
This actually becomes a lesson for all of us- to get ourselves into habits that will hold up, nutrition wise, with time.
Our late and last elder would happily have lived on beef stick and the cheapest icecream. It kept him going through his wife's cooking and after she passed, the habit was stuck.
Sometimes, 'what is' simply is.
I see that this is a pretty old thread, but the content is always relevant to those of us who care for elderly folks. I cared for my dad for 17 years after he had a stroke that made independent living a challenge -- complicated further by the fact that he had pretty severe speech and comprehension deficits, so it was hard for him to tell me what he wanted. Luckily he was able to heat things up, and do some basic cooking, but less so as time went on. After a while we both got pretty stuck in our ways about what to shop for and what to prepare, and he definitely got in a food rut -- same groceries every week,and he started to lose a bit of weight. I started taking him my old copies of Gourmet and Bon Appetit and any other food/lifestyle magazines with good pictures in them -- I'd leave him with a marker, and when I came back the next day he would have circled the dishes that were of interest to him. Often they were dishes or ingredients that I don't normally shop for or weren't in my regular cooking rotation, so it was good to get a bit of a kick in the pants to get some new ideas. It also helped re-connect him with foods of his childhood that I never would have thought of buying him (liverwurst!), or special treats he was hoping I'd make him (cheesecake) that he wasn't able to verbalize, but seeing a picture would trigger a good food memory for him and circling a picture was how he could communicate his preferences to me. Occasionally he'd throw a surprise in there -- he once circled a picture of sushi, which perplexed me, but then it occurred to me that he probably had never had sushi before his stroke, so we gave it a try and he loved it. I think the picture browsing also helped to stimulate his appetite (it certainly does mine!), and gave him some autonomy over his diet. The pictures also helped clarify how he preferred certain items to be cooked -- he liked potatoes boiled and tossed with butter and parsley, but didn't particularly care for mashed -- evidenced by the giant X he drew through a picture of mashed potatoes. We had a lot of fun with the magazines, and I think it really helped him stay interested in food -- it certainly gave me plenty of ideas!
And I heartily agree with everyone here -- Ensure is disgusting and nobody likes it. If you need to get calories and some nutrition in an easily eaten form, you can never go wrong with a low-sugar ice cream! When my dad was suffering from end-stage prostate cancer and started refusing food, I could always get some Hagen Daz vanilla into him. It was one of his few pleasures left, and luckily he never had a blood sugar issue, so I figured what the hell.
17 years - wow... you're a great (adult) child! we're on year 5 (first my mom, now my dad). luckily, we've put 10-15 lbs. back on my dad in the last 3 months, even as he's been going through chemo. but if things get worse, i'll use that picture idea for sure.
and neither my mom nor dad would drink ensure, but he's drinking 3 Boosts a day!
I am a caretaker for my 86 year old father who suffers from renal failure. A very fast item to cook, frozen fish, which is often of good quality. I put drizzles of olive oil over the top, grated lemon peel, herbs de provence and cook according to directions. I often cook several slices of it, and then make oven to table trays with a fillet, mashed potato, and waxed beans for each tray. You could make instant potatoes, my Dad has dietary restrictions on potatoes but instant is ok as potassium is lower) and mix the mash with another vegetable, sweet potatoes for example.
My father, 93 lives with me and has been with us for 5 years. My husband's tastes in food are 180 degrees different. My mother-in-law who visits regularly for weeks at a time, 91 years old, will eat most anything. Fixing for individuals with different pallets, and different taste needs has been challenging. Recently, my husband has been put on a medication which has affected his taste buds-yet another change. How have I coped? Here's what I have done:
As for food, my father also has a hard time eating like many other elderly people and complains of loss of taste. He also use to complain of the larger portion size I put on his plate so I started making "freeze ahead meals" in "muffin tins." The muffin tins with 12 hold about a 1/2 cup. Mashed potatoes, cream corn, mashed sweet potatoes with and without a topping, mashed turnips, cream chip beef, candied carrots-cooked well with butter and brown sugar, baked apples, spiced apples, apple crisp, cherry tarts, quiche's (western, cheese, ham and cheese, spinach or kale, sausage), mini pies (mincemeat, apple, cherry), etc. can be frozen in regular size or large muffin size pans. I also make cream chip beef which can be put on mashed potatoes or toast.
The large muffin tins hold about a cup. Macaroni and cheese (use Velveeta with some cheddar if you want it really creamy-extra milk), chilli, soups, and stews are more appropriate for these 1 cup size muffin tins unless you have someone with a really small appetite or who wants several sides. I typically make soup in a crockpot-chicken noodle, minestrone, navy bean and ham, bison vegetable, and tomato beef vegetable and put the soup in the larger muffin tins to freeze. When its time for a meal, heat and serve. Yum!
I have found Yukon Gold potatoes seem to freeze the best, and reconstitute them with sour cream and a bit of butter to make them nice and creamy. I also freeze mashed potatoes in the cake form, for fried mashed potato cakes-a favorite in our house-par thaw and fry.
I find my father is old school and likes gravy. I make beef, turkey, pork and chicken gravy ahead from stock or canned broth and freeze in muffin tins in small serving sizes (use the mini tins) and in the long run it is much tastier and cheaper to do because he doesn't use much. Freezing small portions of chunked meat in the gravy keeps the meat tender and more flavorful. Just freeze in the muffin tin. When you want gravy and noodles or gravy and meat (beef, pork, chicken, turkey, or bison) over potatoes just heat and serve.
I also make and freeze cheese potatoes in muffin tins as well as a hash brown recipe with, sour cream, cheddar cheese (with or without ham bits). Add butter or sour cream to reconstitute. This goes well with dinner or breakfast.
FYI:Remember to spray the pan before putting the ingredients in the muffin tin or use Crisco or lard.
Once you flash freeze them in the muffin tins, take out and thaw for about 10-15 min and pry out frozen food with a knife and put the portions in Ziplock bags. Take a straw, insert into the bag, suck the air out, and close up tight and label. The wonderful thing about this method is if they are particular with their eating habits, this method works well for many meals, gives a variety of dishes, but reduces the portion size to fit the persons needs-rendering less waste and more choices for dinner. I now just tell my father what the main meal is (e.g. pork chops) and offer him a limited choice of side dishes-all of which can be heated within 10-15 min. or quicker in the microwave. This is a great planning method which gives him choices too. When I'm running behind at work, all I have to do is to let family members know what to get out, and it is painless for them and done by the time I get home.
Finally, my father can't eat shellfish or liver due to gout and he doesn't like canned tuna. To save money, in late summer when the fish are larger, I have the local fish market fillet me 40 spot (very small fillets, 15 croaker slightly larger fillets, and 20 flounder (flounder for my husband) with the specific instructions that there are to be no bones! They flash freeze them for me. I use these during the next 9 months, and we normally have fish, which my father always gobbles down. We either grill it in aluminum foil with garlic and onion, or lemon, or dip it in flour/salt/pepper mixture, then egg, and then Panko (a Japanese coating). Cooking in Panko is a quick process, when the Panko is brown-the food is done. The texture of the Panko is appealing and tasty. My dad also likes very thin pork chops fried in Panko. Then I cut the pork chops into thin strips for everyone else, but for him, I make bite size pieces.
He enjoys cheese and cottage cheese-which is easy to eat and has lots of protein. I always keep cottage cheese on the table in case something doesn't suit his taste buds that day, as well as fresh fruit which he loves! For my husband, I make a meal he will enjoy and work my Dad's food preferences around this.
These are just some of the ways that I have found to make the eating process more manageable for everyone in the house.
went through some of this with my mom... her taste buds changed a lot at the end. I would say many ideas here are good. I get the ensure being nasty (he's right - filled with garbage. read that label and pronounce everything on there..) - no need for that kind of thing if you are going to be doing whole foods cooking. YOU ARE A WONDERFUL PERSON FOR DOING THIS.
i would say the fewer directions the better - whatever it is, make the cooking times as close to the same as possible. It gets confusing to be switching microwave times (as witnessed by your 10 minute microwave salmon story, which made me smile as my own father would do much the same thing..)
Before my father moved in, I made "mass meals" for him in crockpots since I lived 3 hrs away. They were soups, stews, mac and cheese with tomato, lasagna w/veggies, spaghetti casserole, etc. which could be portioned and heated in the microwave. In black marker, I wrote the directions largely on a 3 x 5 card, taped it on the top and froze the directions with the meal. Certain things needed milk added, which wasn't a problem for him as he was able to follow the directions (e.g. cream sauces and mac and cheese)
We were afraid of him using the oven. Everything was microwave safe including the Pyrex glass containers with plastic tops. I could have stock in Pyrex, as I don't freeze/microwave in plastic containers. These are great for freezer to the oven meals-just put them in a cold oven and heat at 350 for 20-30 min or till food is bubbly. They also wash well, and the lids don't seem to degrade in the dishwasher. Par thaw before putting in a microwave.
Since he lives with me now, I'm still working on portioning and different healthy meals to freeze for him. I have a garden and decided to tried stewed tomatoes (in muffin tins), blanched squash (yellow and zucchini). I made creamed butternut squash soup and earlier in the season asparagus soup (they are thick and creamy made in the blender) and he loves them. I was thinking of a zucchini/yellow squash soup-?? I also understand you can make ahead and freeze souflees in the container and put straight in the oven. This would be a great change (blue cheese, three cheese, lemon or chocolate).He also loves creamed tuna on toast-I plan to freeze the cream tuna in muffin tins-just the right amount for 1 piece of toast. I've done cream chip beef but not cream tuna-why not? My whole goal is to have a variety of food so he doesn't get bored with his food selections, and giving him choices still allows him a say in his eating. I think that is very important. Planning meals in advance in my family, with everyone's wants and needs prevents pizza and KFC from being the mainstay!