Dining with Dignity Even When it Seems Impossible!
By Jo-Anne S. Kelly
 

The phone is ringing off the hook while you, the caregiver, have your hands full: tying the bib around Dad's neck; stirring the pot on the stove; wiping the tears from your toddler's cheeks while trying to bandage his skinned knee. You grab a quick snack of candy. Meanwhile, Dad is sagging in his chair, hungry, angry and perhaps, unaware of the turmoil surrounding him. As you attempt to feed him, Dad grabs the spoon and spills the pureed baby food all over himself and onto the floor.

Anyone who is a caregiver could easily see herself in this picture. How can you ensure that Dad and the rest of the family get the proper nutrition they need, while simplifying your life at the same time?

Food is more than just something to eat. Of course, most of us eat for pleasure and enjoyment, even Dad, bib and all. Food is love, security, and comfort. Food carries with it positive (happy times, holidays, hospitality) and negative (pureed food is for babies not older persons) associations. Other considerations include religious, ethnic and cultural habits. Convenience, availability and cost are important too. It is said, "We eat with our eyes," so appearance and aroma are important. Let's not forget nutritional value! Sometimes a diet is modified for medical reasons such as low fat, high fiber or a tube feeding of a special formula. These modifications may impact negatively on the dining experience. Consider for a moment the person who must eat pureed foods.

Pureeing foods at home can be fraught with problems. Proper texture is difficult to determine and doesn't always turn out right. Contamination can be a serious problem. Are your hands really clean? Are all preparation surfaces (including the blender) bacteria free? Food is handled several times. Did you keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold? Was the final appearance of the product visually appealing? If not, you may want to inquire about the new frozen, molded, pureed products on the market. These items offer a consistent consistency, are safe, delicious, and have great aroma and eye appeal. They are timesaving, convenient, and may be heated on demand. Because the items are flash frozen, nutritional value is preserved. Best of all, the food looks like “real food," not baby food.

What about when friends and family ask, “Is there anything I can do?”

1) Come for dinner Wednesday night...BRING DINNER.

2) Make us a pot of homemade soup (low salt, no cream, be specific).

3) Check with me before you go to the grocery store so I can add a few items.

4) Give the gift of home-delivered meals.

5) If you go out to eat, bring me a "people" bag.

6) Give a gift basket of staples such as tuna, peanut butter, pasta and sauces, cheese and crackers, dried fruit, herbal teas, bottled sparkling water.

7) Give gift certificates from local grocery store.

8) Take the kids out for an afternoon snack or early supper.

9) Come "sit" while I go out for lunch.