AARP Eye Center
Among the many responsibilities of being a family caregiver is ensuring that your loved one’s nutritional requirements are met and that food is provided in a safe manner that caters to their needs.
Rachel Hiles, 36, knows this responsibility all too well after spending seven years caring for her grandmother with dementia while running her own business.
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In the beginning, her grandmother, Barbara Hiles, was able to perform basic tasks such as making a sandwich. But as her condition declined, the level of care she needed intensified, requiring Rachel to come up with innovative ways to prevent food-related mishaps.
Barbara had fallen a few times in the kitchen and once filled the house with smoke while trying to use the stove. To prevent this from happening again, Rachel realized that if the pots and pans were hidden, her grandmother wouldn’t think to use the stove.
The solution that worked for Rachel may not meet the needs of every caregiver’s situation. To address this, we consulted Siera Holley, an outpatient dietitian at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. She shared advice on promoting nutritional health and food safety for caregivers of older adults.
1. Tailor your loved one’s nutrition plan to their specific condition.
It’s important to work with a primary care provider or dietitian because every health condition can greatly influence a person’s nutritional needs.
When grocery shopping, consider food allergies or intolerances and other nutrition requirements such as low sodium, high protein, vitamins and minerals. Typically, caregivers should opt for lean proteins and limit heavily processed foods that contain high amounts of saturated fat, sodium and added sugar, Holley said.
For those with strength or mobility problems, consider the packaging food comes in. If it’s difficult to open, the food is unlikely to be eaten.