Feeding Seniors: Tips for Caregivers and Families

Published In Health & Well-Being

April 26th, 2018

While everyone needs nourishing and well-balanced daily meals, caregivers and families need to recognize this is especially true for seniors. Many seniors have medical conditions, such as diabetes, that require special dietary attention, compounded by lagging appetites. That means caregivers and families must also make sure that seniors get sufficient protein along with enough vegetables and fruits and sufficient whole grains.

An easily downloaded online booklet from the Food and Drug Administration provides clear-cut information about daily nutritional needs. Reading through the booklet can help family members and caregivers interpret nutrition labels, determine serving sizes, and understand which dietary elements are beneficial and which may be harmful. That way they can shop for and cook balanced meals.

Because not all family members and caregivers, or even seniors themselves, cook their own meals, modern technology and entrepreneurship now offer an amazing variety of different ways to feed seniors and everyone else in a family. Among these are on-site meal preparation services and meal delivery plans that tailor menus to meet specific dietary needs.

Hiring Professional Food Services

Hiring an outside service can be both convenient and a time-saver for family members or the caregiver. Food services also let customers stock up on prepared dishes for freezing and for later thawing and reheating. An internet search will disclose many different kinds of meal service plans, among them:

Grocery delivery: A growing number of supermarkets, such as Walmart, some Whole Foods stores, and Kroger’s with its numerous affiliates, have set up a home delivery service; some even offer prepared and precooked meals.  In some areas, consumers can also check out online supermarket shopping for the delivery of perishable and nonperishable foods. For example, the online supermarket Peapod operates in certain Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. But that is just one of numerous other food sources, some of which are located outside of the US.

Restaurant-to-home deliveries: Some enterprising business owners offer services that deliver ordered meals from local restaurants to homes. Such services include GrubHub, DoorDash, OrangeCrate, UberEats and eat24. Modern technology also offers an app that allows customers to enter their location and to find which service works in their locale. Maybe as many as 100,000-plus restaurants nationwide deliver meals.

Personal chef and meal delivery services: Many businesses offer chef services for seniors. These are locally based, so family members and caregivers must locate those in their area. Again, an internet search should do the trick.

Several programs have a more national presence as, for example, Meals on Wheels America, Personal Chef to Go, and Munchery. Meals on Wheels aims to assure that no senior goes without daily meals; the program is affordable and either delivers meals to community centers or to private homes. The Personal Chef to Go sends out meals for specific lifestyles and its meal programs are based on the guidelines by the American Heart Association. Munchery has its own kitchens staffed with trained chefs who assemble and deliver nutritious dinners in disposable containers.

Food banks, soup kitchens, and food pantries: The overall goal of these bodies is to provide meals or basic food needs to the underprivileged. The main source for food for soup kitchens and food panties are local food banks. These organizations collect and distribute items from local supermarkets, churches, and food wholesalers that have thousands of pounds of product that would otherwise go to waste.

For example, the St. Lucy Project in Northern Virginia has as its goal to feed nearly a quarter million hungry in the Diocese of Arlington. Under the auspices of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, it runs annual food drives through local parishes, and stocks its warehouse with foods waiting for distribution to local food pantries.

Church food pantries throughout the country have services to feed the hungry. A national database helps local groups find food sources for these pantries and for soup kitchens in need of supplies. Also non-church-based groups, such as United Way, offer resources to feed the hungry.

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