Cooking Tips For Caregivers
Well-thought-out plans reap its own rewards. Seniors’ nutritional needs are different from children’s and regular adults’ hence take more time to learn.
Familiarize what ingredients to get, study any history of allergies, learn to cook in bulk, and plan for 7 days at a time. This allows you to do shopping on the weekends, saving resources and time. Most importantly, talk to your senior loved one first to know their preferences and consult with a nutritionist or medical expert to optimize the meal plan.
For a more comprehensive guide, follow our tips below:
Know the Nutrients First
The top most needed nutrients, but not limited to, for seniors are3:
Calcium & Vitamin D – to help with bone mass and prevent life threatening frailty from easily breakable bones.
Vitamin B12 – it keeps red blood cell count high for nerve function. If they have healthy nerves, mobility, chewing food, and holding eating utensils are not much of a chore.
Potassium – Vital for their body’s cell functions, it also supports the risk of high blood pressure by helping blood vessel walls loosen. This thus supports circulation and minimizes damage in the extremities.
Fiber – it will keep their digestion healthy and move things along in their body. It also keeps cholesterol level in check by slowing down its absorption.
Water – water is key in preventing dehydration in seniors and will help soften stool to prevent constipation.
If you need a little additional help in topping off the daily essential nutrition requirement, nutritional supplements can be added. Make sure they have been specifically formulated for seniors. For example, Ensure® Complete Balanced Nutrition for Adults comes in powder and liquid versions for easy customization for preferences. 4
- Make meals quick to prepare. (E.g. steam and season or chop and stir fry.)
- Not all meals have to be solid so look into soups, puree, and raw vegetables and fruit smoothies.
- Go natural and fresh as possible as they are more wholesome and do not contain any hidden additives. If you have to use canned or preserved items, read and compare labels.
- Choose lean red meats, skinless chicken, whole grains, legumes, and avoid deep frying anything.
- Grind your own spices as store bought ones contain sodium and possible preservatives.
- Prepare in bulk and freeze ready to heat portions. This also includes ingredients for future meals.
- Plan for snacks and keep prepared fruits, vegetable sticks, and unsalted mixed nuts for snacks. This prevents last minute craving snacks from becoming junk and interrupting regular meals.
- Work a comfort food or two into your meal plan as it can boost their morale.
- Cook together! Planning or cooking together not only allows you to better understand their needs, it also provides them with something to keep them mentally active.
Top Tips for Caregiving
Caring for our senior loved ones comes with challenges. Compared to taking care of children, there are no clear indications of when it will get more difficult or when full recovery can be expected. Caregiving varies from patient to patient. Whether you are providing care to your own loved one or someone else’s, remember to pace yourself and get to know the tips that can help you become a better caregiver.
- Get to know how much care is needed!
Will your seniors need assisted living? Will they need to be admitted to a nursing home? Will they need home care? In some cultures, especially in Myanmar culture, caregiving conversations before a senior need it is taboo. It is expected that you take care of the elderly because they may have at one point in time taken care of you. Determining how much care a senior needs versus your abilities to give will minimize crises.1, 2
- You have to consider financial implications.
This type of conversation is the type that no one really wants to have because it can be triggering for both the caregiver and senior. But it is one you must also have because caregiving can get expensive. If you do not have time, will you be able to afford to sign them up for a nursing home? Who will take care of the medical bills? If in-homecare, will the responsibilities be shared among the people living there? They are all things you must plan for so that they do not create unnecessary debates in the future with parties involved.1, 2
- Get help where it is needed
You may think at first that the responsibility is all yours and it is not appropriate to thrust others with your duties. It is actually quite okay to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed. Be realistic about how much care you can give and are willing to give. Be proactive and find support in geriatric experts or other caregivers within family and friends. Check your local senior communities, nursing homes, support groups, and even social media outlets for your concerns and backup for some hard decisions.1, 2
- Your own wellbeing matters too
Recognizing stress and how to deal with it will help you help yourself and become a better caretaker. Over a long period of time, stress is detrimental to your own wellbeing. Socialize away from caretaking from time to time, give focus to other parts of your life, and maintain a healthy diet along with physical exercise.1, 2
Whatever type of care you are giving, always stay up to date on the latest caregiving techniques and ways to improve quality of life with nutrition. Whether or not you are up to par in the nutrition department when providing care, you can use nutritional supplements where need be. Explore the many products from EnsureⓇ, which has over 40 years of research and scientifically formulated products to improve a senior’s health for a fulfilling and fruitful life.3