Hope for living, loving, and caring with no regrets!

Successful Meals

Episode 120

Rayna Neises, ACC, host, reflects on the topic of meals and feeding your aging loved one from last week’s interview (119) with Toni Fisk. Rayna shares some tips and tricks from her caregiving season with her father around mealtime planning and execution:

  • [4:00] A Meal Card System can help you shop for what is needed.  It can also include everything for the meal and how to prepare it. (i.e., what condiments to add to the hot dog)
  • [6:00] Please take advantage of the free download available.
  • [7:00] Recording what and how much was eaten allows for changes to be made when tastes change and also to rotate meals to provide a well-balanced diet.
  • [8:00] Check out Cook For Your Life with Fred Hutch.
  • [9:16] Freezer meals can be a good option.
  • [13:39] Consider grocery delivery to help keep up on that task.
  • [15:13] Consider dignity bibs.  They are beautiful and help keep your loved one’s clothes from being stained, make clean-up easy, and help to keep their dignity.
  • [16:31] Use the Hand Under Hand technique by Teepa Snow to help with feeding.


*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

[00:00:00] Rayna Neises: “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces, just good food from fresh ingredients.” According to Julia Childs. And Virginia Wolf says,” One cannot think well, love well sleep well, if it has not dined well.” Today, we’re going to talk more about getting that meal on the table for your loved one. Welcome to A Season of Caring Podcast, where there’s hope for living loving and caring with no regrets. This is Rayna Neises, your host, and I’m glad that you’ve joined me today.

[00:00:29] Last week on episode 119, we talked to Toni Fisk, who is a specialist in senior dining, and she shared a lots of wisdom around how they handle that in a facility setting. But as family caregivers, you’re probably dealing with getting the food on the table every day, over and over again, just like I did. I don’t know about you, but I am not. What’s the right word. I’m not a cook. [00:01:00] I’m not a chef. I don’t enjoy it. There’s times that I like to cook for people and I enjoy being able to kind of pamper them a little bit in that way. But overall, I really don’t love to cook so having to cook for someone else and having them dependent on me was a little tough at times, not to mention bringing other people in and asking them to cook for my dad. We found some big challenges with that. So I just thought I would talk a little bit more about some of the things that I did that helped us in our caring season and give you some of those tricks and ideas. So, first of all, it can be tricky cooking for someone else, can’t it? My dad, he was such a routine person.

[00:01:46] You know, I thought it was hilarious. I think there were times that our caregivers just thought we were crazy whenever we laid out expectations for them in how to care for dad. One of those things was the fact that he ate the same thing for lunch [00:02:00] every day. Now I have to be fair here and I’d have to tell you that my dad when he worked his long career at Folgers Coffee, he took a brown bag lunch to work just about every single day. And in that lunch was a bologna and cheese sandwich with lettuce and Mayo on wheat bread. I can tell you that because I made him that same lunch almost every day when he was at home and I was caring for him.

[00:02:30] So he loved his bologna sandwich Fritos and an apple. And that’s what he took to work. I really think every day, best of my memory. So cooking lunch for him was no big deal dinner. On the other hand, he was pretty picky. When you have a hot dog for dinner, what does it look like? Do you make your hot dog the same way I do? I doubt it and I definitely didn’t make it the same way my [00:03:00] dad did. My dad loved to have sauerkraut with hot dogs cook together, and then hotdog on a bun with mustard and sauerkraut and sweet relish. That was his favorite hot dog. But until you stop to think about it, you don’t realize how individual people’s tastes are.

[00:03:21] And when you bring a caregiver in and ask them to fix a meal for your loved one. Even if you tell them it’s hotdogs and here’s all the stuff that doesn’t mean, they really know how your loved one loves their food. Now, of course, if they’re working together or if they’re you’re not dealing with dementia or other memory impairments, then your loved one can help in that conversation. But we found it challenging to be able to help our caregivers understand what a meal looks like for my dad. So I designed a system to be able to communicate that with them.

[00:03:57] It’s really interesting in this meal [00:04:00] planning system, I have multiple steps and this is how I helped us communicate to everyone. Also, it was an adaption to how I run my household. One of the things that I do, meals that I enjoy. I have a meal card and I have the name of that on it. And the things that I serve at with, for example, if it’s a casserole that I might have bread, or if it is a chicken packet, I really like cheesy potatoes with that and green beans. And so I have the full meal on the card. And then on the back of the card, I have all of the ingredients that are required to make this meal. So each time I go to the store, I pull out my meal card and say, okay, these are the meals I want to have an option of having this week or next week for my family. And so then I go through my pantry and see what I need to make sure that I have everything I need to fix those meals. That allows me to have an up-to-date list so that I know exactly what [00:05:00] options I have.

[00:05:00] I find, I don’t care for planning my meals to the point that on Tuesday, we’re going to have spaghetti on Thursday we’re going to have tacos on Wednesday. We’re going to go out. I don’t like to be boxed in because number one, sometimes the day doesn’t go like you planned and you don’t have as much time to cook as maybe what you planned ahead and thought that you would. Number two, I might just not be in the mood for it. And Hey, if I have to cook it, we’re going to eat what I feel like eating. Right. So I really liked having that option, that choice. And we gave that same choice to the caregivers. You let them know, these are the things that we have, everything in the house. Ready for you to be able to cook for dad, but we did take it a step farther and we did make sure that we listed all the things that he needed on his hot dog and the way that he liked to have those foods.

[00:05:49] Because again, that was not something that he could communicate with them, but I do think it can be very helpful not only for you, if you’re cooking for your family or for your loved ones [00:06:00] home to know what you need in order to make that full meal. There are times that it’s pretty simple, but some of those staples might not be there. So you really want to make sure that you have everything that you need to go into that meal. I do have that free resource available for you linked on the show notesPage@aseasonofcaring.com slash podcast. If you’ll just visit the show notes page, you’ll be able to locate that free download. So be sure to take advantage of that.

[00:06:29] I think my system works well and I felt like the people who worked for us found it to be true as well. So that’s one of the things is just being able to find the right foods or the right meals for your loved one. That can be a real compromise at times. I know I found that there were things that dad liked. I didn’t really like, and definitely some of our caregivers didn’t necessarily like some of the same meals. So we also recorded what he was eating, how much of it he ate so [00:07:00] that we can make changes if there was something he wasn’t enjoying any longer, or if there was something that we were feeding him a lot. And then we wanted to make sure we were aware of that. So he was having a full well balanced meal. 

[00:07:12] One of the other things that we ran into and dealing with meals for my dad was dietary restrictions. As Dad aged, his reflux was a real issue and I think I mentioned this to Toni that, you know, we got to a point that there were some foods he just couldn’t have. And those dietary restrictions became difficult. Our doctor asked us to remove gluten. We reduced it. We never did remove it completely, but I know that gluten can definitely be an issue for a lot of people, especially older people and being able to break down all of those things within the food. So finding gluten-free alternatives can be really challenging, but we found if we could substitute as much as we could, as much as we could control and he would still eat, we were all for it.

[00:07:58] I know also [00:08:00] those of you who are caring for someone who has cancer and is going through chemo, you might find a whole different set of challenges. I found a great resource on the website Cook for Your Life. Fred Hutch has some suggestions for Anti-nausea Recipes, for Caregivers, with Comforting and Healing Foods. He states on his website, cooking as a caregiver can be tricky, no matter how well, you know, someone it’s impossible to gauge exactly how they feel. Or what they need, especially during chemotherapy treatment. When it comes to food, it’s always a good idea to ask what’s needed before cooking at home and bringing food to a friend or family member. People going through chemo often have sore mouths or impaired taste plus the smell of some foods can just play and be nauseated. Here’s some comfort foods that hit the spot from our founder, Ann, when she was in chemo.

[00:08:53] So I’m going to link that as well on our show notes page. I thought that was a great resource. And I think it’s true all the [00:09:00] time to ask when you’re bringing a meal, if there’s a favorite or if there’s an allergy or something that they’re avoiding, no matter who you’re bringing meals for. Bringing a meal can be such a blessing, but you don’t want to make sure that it gets an opportunity to be.

[00:09:16] We also found that freezer meals were a great option. I have a Taco Soup recipe that I picked up from our friends, my first couple of years out of college. And I love this Taco Soup. I’ve had other people’s taco soup and I don’t think it’s as good as this one. Dad also loved my Taco Soup. So I’d make a large pot of Taco Soup and then divided into single serving size containers and freeze it. We found that was really handy to pull out of the freezer, heat it up. It was a winner every time with corn chips. So I would really encourage you to find and think of those things that they really enjoy.[00:10:00] 

[00:10:00] Maybe take a little bit more work to make and go ahead and make a larger batch and freeze it, or at least leave some leftovers in the fridge for later that. So freezer meals, I think can be really great. And one pot meals can be really great. You could be fixing it for your family and then take it over to the person that you’re caring for, or take the leftovers to them for the next day.

[00:10:24] So just thinking ahead, in those larger portions, I think can be really handy as well.

[00:10:29] Another challenge can be the temperature of the food. My dad was really picky and so is my aunt. I mentioned my aunt in podcast 119. when I interviewed Toni Fisk about food . My aunt has transitioned into assisted living and she is struggling. She’s struggling with her food, not being as hot as she wants it to. With not having the access to a microwave to reheat it for herself. And really even just having the food choices she would really like to have. I really appreciated Toni and I’s [00:11:00] conversation, which happened after our interview ended about temperature because it gave me a good perspective.

[00:11:07] My aunt has Macular Degeneration and she is pretty close to legally blind at this point. And her having hot soup, hot food can actually be a risk .I hadn’t really thought of it that way. And I’m sure that my aunt hasn’t thought of it that way, but even just serving the soup to her could be a risk for the person serving as well as if they were to spill it on her lap or something like that. There are specific guidelines. There are temperatures in which the food has to be served and should be documented all of those types of things. So she gave me some good tips and ideas of how to help my aunt talk with them, at her facility and try to get a little bit better service for her in her perspective. But I also helped me to see and to stop and think about feeding a large group of people is a whole different ball game than feeding someone one-on-one at home or even a family. [00:12:00] So I think there can be some definite challenges when you’re looking at making a transition into a group setting, but there could also be some challenges when you change the cook.

[00:12:09] Right? And so, you know, learning how to make the things, the way that they love them was something we really wanted to do for my dad to be able to support him and to be able to help his life change as little as possible, but it definitely was some things that we had to make some adjustments. As we brought caregivers in, we found some freezer meals that were gluten free. Some of those types of things that were just a little bit easier than having to cook from scratch every night. I think you also have to consider as a caregiver, how you can best use your time. If you can find Meals on Wheels and your loved one qualifies for that, I say, go for it. Now. It’s not going to be there twice off the menu, but there’s definitely a lot of good food available and finding some options that maybe they can compromise and say, okay, three times a week, I’ll do that. The other times we’ll do something else. 

[00:12:59] I [00:13:00] recently tried out. One of those shipped to you, all the things you need to make the meal kits. I found a pretty good deal on it. We’ve done it for about four weeks. I’m not sure I’m going to continue it because I’m not loving the recipes, but I know there’s other ones to try. And there was definitely other recipes to choose. But I wonder if maybe as a caregiver, if you thought of that, having the whole box shipped to you with everything you need to create that meal, depending on the number of people you need to cook for, could be really handy. The main thing is just finding those things that remind your loved one of things that they enjoy or are foods that they enjoy. 

[00:13:39] I also think one of the things that would have been extremely helpful that was not possible during our caregiving season was grocery delivery to the house. Just keeping up on the groceries is definitely a full-time job. And thankfully my sister did that, but we did have that master list when you use the last one, put it on the list and with all the people involved [00:14:00] in caring for Dad. It didn’t always happen but overall, I was amazed at how smooth that process went in helping keep the house stocked and giving options for dad. We did have a schedule menu for his breakfast because he really likes certain breasts breakfast foods, and we wanted some of the less healthy ones to not be when he got every day.

[00:14:22] And so we did have that a little bit scheduled, but our evening meals, we let the caregivers choose, or the person who’s cooking choose between the ones that had been put in the box that said, we have everything you need to make this. It can be easy to pick up fast food, both for yourself and for the one you’re caring for but part of what we’re wanting to do is really be aware of our self-care and the person we’re caring for and their overall health. So you really have to consider that when you’re looking at picking up things versus cooking at home, because there just seems to be so many more calories in that favorite food that’s easy and convenient. Right? [00:15:00] And I found that to be true as I put on weight and my initial caregiving. So we want to keep an eye on that and really help you to stay in the best health possible as well as the person that you’re caring for. 

[00:15:13] Another of the challenges we faced in caring for my mom was her inability to feed herself. Again, as I referenced Toni Phillips. From episode one 19. One of the things that she has available on her website is dignified bibs. I don’t think that’s even the word she uses, but for my mom, honestly, we never really thought about it. We just tied to tea towel around her neck and we were just at home. It didn’t seem to bother her, but I definitely love some of the styles that Toni had available. They look like a scarf, they’re beautiful. And so really finding some options that would help your loved ones clothes from being stained and the cleanup to be a little easier. But at the same time, really keeping their dignity in [00:16:00] place. 

[00:16:00] We fed mom for years. And so it wasn’t something that was as difficult when we were helping to feed, but as she was really trying to feed herself, it was something that she really struggled with for a period of time. So. As you’re adjusting to whatever your loved ones needs are, whether it be pureed food or help with feeding, definitely doing your research and finding some things that will help you do that with dignity can make a big difference.

[00:16:31] I’m also going to reference Teepa Snow on our show notes page and her Hand Under Hand to help you with feeding. Huge huge difference. If we had done it that way, it would have made such a difference with my mom. So I want to encourage you to take a look at that. If you are working with someone who has dementia, it will really help you in the feeding process.

[00:16:53] I hope that you found some things maybe that you’ve never thought of or some ways you can tweak what you’re doing [00:17:00] now to make it a better fit for you and for the one that you’re caring for. We all love food. We don’t all love food that’s good for us. Right? So if we can find a way to keep good, healthy food, both for ourselves and for the one we’re caring for, it’s definitely a win. 

[00:17:18] Thank you for joining me today! A Season of Caring Podcast is created for the encouragement of family caregivers. If you have financial, legal, or medical questions, be sure to consult your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.

Your turn, share your thoughts . . .


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes or subscribe to our list below now and never miss an episode.

Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises, ACC

An ICF Certified Coach, Author of No Regrets:  Hope for Your Caregiving Season, Podcaster, Positive Approach® to Care (PAC)Independent Certified Trainer & Speaker, offering encouragement, support, and resources to those who are in a Season of Caring for Aging Parents.

Her passion is for those caring and their parents, that they might be seen, not forgotten & cared for, not neglected.

Rayna Neises

New Episode Weekly |  Live Every Thursday @ 9am

Would you like to be a Guest?  |  Email Rayna

Stay Connected to Get the Latest Podcast Alerts

Rayna Neises: A Season of Caring