When my mother-in-law first moved near us we often spent evening meals with her to keep her company. She used this time to share her adventures of the day, her concerns and her accumulated wisdom. Overtime, as she aged and her arthritic condition worsened, the focus changed from keeping her company to preparing her evening meals. This usually meant she would sit at the kitchen table and direct the cooking process. As time passed, however, her interest and ability to prepare a meal that required a great deal of preparation diminished. She enjoyed fresh fruit so she could still prepare a breakfast of fruits and cereals and maybe cook an egg or make a sandwich for lunch but an evening meal with an entrée and side dishes required more energy than she was willing to expend. The danger in this is that she tended to eat less, and used more prepared and convenience foods many of which were highly caloric, filled with preservatives and high in sodium. An additional issue was that her daily meals were becoming less and less nutritionally balanced. Preparing her evening meals allowed us to monitor her diet and make sure she was eating nutritionally sound meals. An additional factor a caregiver must take into consideration when preparing meals is the time that it takes an aging person with a debilitating physical condition to eat. In the age of fast food we often rush through our meals. I noticed my mother-in-law would often stop eating when we finished eating our meal. By staying and sitting with her, often approaching an hour, she ended up eating a complete meal. You are indeed what you eat. A balanced diet provides the energy and the physical building blocks needed for a healthy full life.
-By Hello! Home Care contributing writer, Bill Mishico