While a good diet can enhance healing and prevent illness, a bad one can rob an Alzheimer’s patient of energy or contribute to obesity. But if you’re already overwhelmed with your responsibilities as a caregiver, how can you possibly cook tasty, nutritious meals for a loved one?
The answer: Keep it simple! You don’t have to be Martha Stewart or The Barefoot Contessa to prepare the best food for your loved one. Here are 10 tips to help you get the job done in the most time-efficient way possible.
- Review any dietary or fluid restrictions that your loved one may have received from his or her physician or dietician, as well as any food allergies. Use them as guidelines when choosing simple recipes.
- Do an online search of your loved one’s diagnosis, plus the word "nutrition" to find more disease-related information that you can take into account when crafting his or her diet plan. Example: "diabetes nutrition" or "congestive heart failure nutrition." If you don’t trust the source of the information online, then review it with a health care provider.
- Buy a simple recipe cookbook or food magazine with lots of pictures and allow your loved one to choose recipes that are appealing to him or her.
- Do you still have Grandma’s recipe for chicken noodle soup? In fact, homemade soup is a good meal choice. Not only is it great for hydration, but depending on the ingredients, it can also have added benefits for the immune system.
- Slow-cooker recipes can free up several hours in your day. Choose recipes with minimal preparation times and varied ingredients for nutritional value.
- Smoothies are a clever way to ensure daily fruit and/or vegetable intake and can be used to supplement a meal.
- Make larger amounts of certain meals, so that smaller portions can be frozen for future use.
- Repeat as necessary--repetition in meal planning isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As long as your loved one enjoys a certain recipe, and the overall diet is well-balanced, feel free to repeat a favorite food or meal. In fact, if there’s a specific food that your loved one prefers, you can base your recipe search around that ingredient.
- Cultivate an environment of mindfulness while preparing food. This will lessen the stress of meal preparation.
- Report any diet or fluid intake changes, difficulty swallowing or any other concerns regarding nutrition to your family member’s physician immediately, as it may be the cause of an underlying problem or medication side effect.
Amy Drouin is a registered nurse with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. These tips were taken from her recent VNSNY blog post: A Caregiver’s Cookbook. To read more blog posts from VNSNY staff members, visit http://blogs.vnsny.org.