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How to Have a Successful Thanksgiving with an Aging Family Member

Posted November 5, 2015thanksgiving-dinner.jpg

It is finally that time of year again where we all pile around the table and celebrate the start of the Holiday Season, Thanksgiving. Each year brings with it a multitude of challenges; whether it is making sure the travel arrangements work out, the weather holds out for travel, or just making sure the gravy isn’t lumpy and the pie crust comes out right.  But if you have an aging family member who’s cognition isn’t quite what it used to be, the Holiday season brings on a whole new set of challenges.

It is important to remember that as a person ages, they do not metabolize food in the same way they once did, in fact, they may not be able to taste food in the same way either. Their dietary habits and needs may change significantly as the years pass and different health problems take hold. Don’t be offended if they don’t seem to eat as much as they once did.  Here are some things to consider as you prepare food for the Big Day:

  • Make food that is easy to chew and swallow.  Dentures and reduced saliva production might make tough and dry foods difficult.
  • Use less salt.  You don’t want to cause a dangerous spike in blood pressure or worsen water retention.  Remember, you can always salt the food on your own plate later.
  • Add more seasoning.  To make up for the lower salt, aging taste buds and the dulling affect of some prescription medications, use savory, but not spicy, seasonings to provide more flavor.
  • Use recipes rich with nutrition.  Seniors need to eat food that is high in nutritional content and calories to make up for their often reduced appetites.  www.nutritiondata.com is a good source for information on the nutritional and caloric content of food.  Check AARPs recipe site for great Thanksgiving recipes for seniors. 

Often times, it is at these type of gatherings that the family may realize that dementia or Alzheimers may be present. IF you already know your loved one has dementia, here are some ideas that may make the big dinner go a little more smoothly: 

  • Stick with the familiar and maintain routines.  Avoid strange and noisy restaurants.
  • Keep your gathering small, so as not to confuse your loved one with unfamiliar faces.
  • Focus on the old memories.  Short-term memory is usually the most affected with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.  Ask them questions about their childhood and younger days.  They just might surprise you with what they remember and you might learn something new about your loved one.  

Being mindful of the changing requirements your loved one may be experiencing should allow you to arm yourself with the best menu items for their situation, as well as allow them to be more comfortable eating food that caters to their changing needs.

Resource: Maineseniorguide.com

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