Help me feed an alzheimer's patient well
February 14, 2007 9:54 PM   Subscribe

How can I improve my grandmother's nutritional intake with super simple-to-make foods?

I am not at all a cook. My habit, I eat like a junky would (although I'm not at all a drug user). I'm really becoming concerned about the way I feed my grandmother, because I don't think I'm feeding her as heartily as she should be eating. She's in her mid-80's, and aside from her severe alzheimer's she's in good health. Can anyone recommend some fairly simple dishes, recipes, or even cookbooks for a cooking noob who is lazy about such things?

Please no meals-on-wheels suggestions. I'd like to be a better caregiver
posted by missed to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I like the American Heart Association's recipe book. Click the "quick and easy" box. Because some of the AHA's target market is made up of seniors, these recipes might work well for you.
posted by acoutu at 9:58 PM on February 14, 2007

What about things like smoothies? Some fruit, milk, yoghurt etc. That's a great way to get some decent vitamins and protein without too much difficult in preparation.
posted by tomble at 10:08 PM on February 14, 2007

Simple stir-frys? You can vary the vegetables to get lots of nutrients, switch up the seasoning, serve over rice/couscous/pasta/quinoa, and even adjust the cooking time to make things softer if she has trouble chewing.

Beans are a good source of protein and fiber, are filling, and pretty easy to prepare.

Scrambled eggs with cheese are easy and healthy. You can saute chopped onion, tomato, sweet pepper, or mushrooms in the pan and then just pour the eggs on top for a quick sort-of-omelet that hits three food groups.

If she's safe eating by herself, you could leave a bowl of grapes or cut-up fruit for her on the counter and hope she sees them and snacks during the day.

Does she tolerate new foods, or prefer the familiar?
posted by hippugeek at 10:30 PM on February 14, 2007

I am not a nutritionist, though my boyfriend's sister now is... But I think the best and easiest way to get balanced nutrition at the dinner meal is just 1-2-3: whole grain, vegetable, protein. Wild rice and broccoli done in a rice cooker that has a steamer level is a one-button move, and salmon filets skin-down on a tinfoil covered baking sheet, seasoned with lemon pepper or Grizzly Joe's or Spike or whatever is a 20 minute meal you can apportion properly and is super nutritious.

Green Bean Casserole (recipe on the French's fried onions canister) with Chicken breasts in Shake 'n' Bake or just olive oil and garlic powder (I don't eat chicken, but I recall it being pretty easy to prepare!)

Green Beans fried in some butter and salt at a high flame are really tasty. I never get tired of them as a side.

Chicken/Salmon Caesar Salad. Better for weight loss than bulking up, though.

Chopped/Chef Salad. Oh I love waltzing through the grocery store and grabbing everything you'd ever see at a salad bar and then making a salad with all of it! Start with Spinach!

I also love making a big vegetable soup, and I like a broth base, but tomato base is a different landscape to play around in. Carrots, Potatoes, Cabbage, Canned Beans, you can improvise and it's all so forgiving and delicious.

Clam Chowder! Matzo Ball soup! Pasta Primavera! Spinach omelettes! Veggie Scrambles! Tuna Noodle Casserole!

I would elaborate with recipes, but they're easy to find and mine aren't special.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:31 PM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also keep in mind that your grandmother needs a far smaller volume of food than you do--my grandma's in her early eighties and in decent health, and her filling meals are barely a snack for me. She just doesn't use up much fuel.
posted by hippugeek at 10:32 PM on February 14, 2007

Peanut butter instead of plain butter on toast at breakfast is a healthy little trick my mother taught me when she was nursing her own aging and ailing mother.
Whole milk at meals, too.
posted by Dizzy at 10:55 PM on February 14, 2007

If you're a really terrible cook and if she isn't always too lucid, you might try Ensure-type "meal in a shake" products. We foist them on _my_ grandmother, since we can't actually get her to chew, and it gets her all the nutrients she needs without blending a meal.
posted by crayolarabbit at 10:56 PM on February 14, 2007

A few years ago when I became my mom's caregiver, she had pretty much decided not to eat. I worked out some optimal diet with her and helped her keep track of what she was supposed to eat when, but... she would only do it to save my feelings. She found it a drag. She was not hungry. When I started just making all her favorite foods, she ate a lot more, and voluntarily. She'd get curious what I was going to make next. She'd talk about a time in the past she had had that food. Food actually became a positive thing. In her case anyway, that trumped nutritional value.

So maybe ask your grandmother what she wants, look it up on allrecipes, and make that? (For a terrific basic print cookbook, try Fannie Farmer.) If your grandmother doesn't express a preference, maybe you could ask your parents or someone about her favorite foods. I think, when people are not hungry and have become used to thinking of food as another bodily obligation, reestablishing food as a sensual pleasure helps.

And you didn't ask but -- you really want to join a caregiver support network if you haven't yet.
posted by Methylviolet at 11:04 PM on February 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Please no meals-on-wheels suggestions. I'd like to be a better caregiver

Why not?... Getting Meals On Wheels doesn't mean you're not a good caregiver... In fact, I think you sound like a wonderful caregiver based on your question... Meals On Wheels is there for anyone and everyone who needs it... I encourage you to give them a call.
posted by amyms at 11:18 PM on February 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

mix powdered milk into a glass of milk... and peanut butter is good too.
posted by complience at 5:15 AM on February 15, 2007

Get a rice cooker with a steamer basket, which is great for sides and vegetables (for flavor and variety, you can make rice-a-roni in a rice cooker!)
posted by muddgirl at 8:40 AM on February 15, 2007

I have to second amyms. Deciding to use Meals on Wheels does not make you a lesser caregiver. Even though both my mom and I lived in town, my grandmother had MoW. I would come over every other evening and repackage her meals into more manageable servings (one meal was enough for two dinners) and make sure they were fresh. I would often add fresh or frozen veggies to the meals and take out anything I knew she didn't like.

In addition, the volunteers are usually friendly people who are happy to drop off the food and skeedaddle or have a quick chat. Depending on your grandmother's personality/condition, she may enjoy looking forward to a daily visitor.

It sounds like she's lucky to have you.
posted by annaramma at 10:49 AM on February 15, 2007

Steamed veggies are super-easy. Broccoli, asparagus, carrots, lots of different ones work well. Steps: get a steamer (cheap and available at any cook store and some grocery stores; a metal strainer will do if it fits your pot well); cut up fresh veggies; boil water.

1. boil a 1/2" of water in a covered pot
2. cut up fresh veggies and put into the steamer
3. put the steamer into the pot, so the bottom doesn't quite touch the top of the water, and re-cover.
4. Wait a few minutes (say, 3 or 4?), then poke the veggies with a fork to see if they're done. If not, let them go another minute and poke, and so on.
5. Voila! Finished veggies, brightly colored and ready to eat. You can add butter, cheese sauce, a bit of soy sauce, or whatever makes them more appetizing. They also keep well for the next day.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:51 PM on February 15, 2007

Meant to say: having 1 serving of steamed veggies, plus 1 or 2 servings of fresh fruit, is a very easy change to make, but does a lot of good over the typical fast-food type diet. If you have a blender, veggie-based soups are easy and quick (loosely chop ingredients, add to blender, blend, pour into pot and heat on stove for a while) and so are fruit smoothies.

Here's a previous AskMe thread about how to prepare various fresh or frozen veggies; here's one with lots of soup recipes. Some of them are complicated, but soups keep well over several days -- it may seem like a lot of effort one night, but you can eat well for lunch and dinner for a few days if you make a big batch. Making your own soup is also good because you can keep the saltiness lower (most canned soups are insanely salty, bad for the heart).
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:17 PM on February 15, 2007

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