With age, people commonly become less active and experience changes to their metabolism and digestive systems. Along with exercise, meal preparation and eating the right foods are very important for maintaining health, fitness, and proper weight.
Meal Planning and Preparation
For many, meal preparation is fun and easy. The biggest challenge may just be menu planning, and shopping for and finding the right ingredients.
But for others, meal preparation may be a a greater challenge. Lack of interest in cooking, simple laziness, lack of knowledge, insufficient income, loss of a spouse or partner who used to do the cooking, lack of skill or experience, inability to go out and shop for groceries, and a host of other factors can negatively impact meal preparation.
Preparing the right foods requires consideration of the changing bodily needs, planning of menus, and shopping for the needed items. While frozen dinners, take-out food, and meal replacement shakes can serve a purpose in a pinch, these options are not ideal sources of nutrition.
With regard to eating, most people face few or no challenges. They are able to move food from serving container to their plates and bowls, hold utensils, move the food from the plate or bowl to their mouth, and chew and swallow. They can hold a glass or cup, move it to their mouth, drink without spilling, and set the glass or cup back down.
However, this is not the case for all. Persons suffering from arthritis or other debilitating ailments may experience pain or have trouble lifting utensils and cups. Persons recovering from strokes may be unable to move limbs or align utensils or cups properly with the mouth. Persons with teeth, mouth, or throat issues may have difficultly chewing and swallowing the food.
Special utensils, plates, and cups may help. Cutting up food in small pieces or otherwise making it easier to chew and swallow may also help. In certain cases, people will need to be fed.
Home Care Aide Meal Preparation and Eating Assistance
Many home care aides can plan, shop for, and prepare meals. They work with the seniors to evaluate recipes, and often share camaraderie and cooking responsibilities with the seniors. Since many home care aides do not visit every day, they can prepare extra meals in advance while at the senior’s home, that can be refrigerated or frozen for future consumption.
Home care aides can also help with whatever extra preparation is necessary to facilitate eating. They can finely cut or puree food, or can prepare it in such a way to make it softer. The aides can also help with feeding a person or helping the person to feed themself.
Subsidized Delivery Services
Seniors may be able to make use of subsidized prepared meal delivery services that are available in many markets, such as Meals on Wheels. Programs vary slightly by area.
In general, these programs deliver nutritious meals to people who have limited mobility and who may have difficulty providing themselves with adequate nutrition. Pricing for the meals is generally done on a sliding scale, depending on a person’s ability to pay.
Help for Family Caregivers
AARP’s Home Alone Alliancesm has created a “How-To” videos and resource guides for family caregivers on specific tasks. You can find their video for Special Diets by clicking the links below.
This video series seeks to provide family caregivers with an overview of managing care given to seniors. It was developed by Alliance members—the AARP Public Policy Institute and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC, Davis.
- Nutrition Basics
- Reducing Sodium
- Modifying Food Textures
- Managing Low Appetite
- G-Tube Feeding Guidelines
- Helping to Feed Persons with Dementia
AARP Resource Guides
- Nutrition Basics (PDF)
- Reducing Sodium (PDF)
- Modifying Food Textures (PDF)
- Managing Low Appetite (PDF)
- G-Tube Feeding Guidelines (PDF)
- Helping to Feed Persons with Dementia (PDF)
Reinhard, Susan. Latest How-To Videos for Family Caregivers Provide Guidance on Complex Medical Tasks. aarp.org . AARP Pubic Policy Institute. 16 Sep 2019. Web. 3 Feb 2020.
Seniors’ Nutrition: Tips and Guidelines for Healthier Eating. https://www.greatseniorliving.com/health-wellness/senior-nutrition. GreatSeniorLiving. 3 Feb 2020. Web. 4 Feb 2020.
Sampling of Representative Meal Preparation and Eating Assistance Products
Below is a sampling of products and equipment that are used in providing meal preparation and eating assistance services. Click on the links to find out more information, see other products selections, and if you like, to make a purchase from one of our providers.