Mealtimes and family balanced with caring

Posted on: 12 June 2019 by Rob Hobson

If you are managing a family and caring for someone then try and organise your time so that you can sit down and eat as a family, writes Rob Hobson.

mealtime considerations

As a carer your needs are just as important as the people you care for and maintaining good health will help in many different areas of the responsibilities required of you.  Diet is key to good health but in some cases the food you prepare for someone in your care may require a change of texture or additional nutrients to support their ability to swallow and/or to maintain a healthy weight.

Don’t forget about your needs!

Caring for someone can be unforgiving and relentless but the likelihood is that this may just be how it is for the time being, so you need to make time during the day to sit down and eat.  Maintaining a healthy diet will ensure you get everything your body needs to function properly as well as maintaining energy levels throughout the day and night.  Eating poorly may put your own health at risk especially if you already have any underlying health conditions.

If you are managing a family and caring for someone then try and organise your time so that you can sit down and eat as a family.  This may sound a little patronising but in many family setting members scatter around their house with meals or eat at different times during the evening.  Eating together is a really good habit to get into as it provides valuable family time to catch up and connect with one another.

Porridge

Adapting the consistency of meals

In some cases, meals may need to be adapted to accommodate the needs of someone in your care.  The later stages of dementia, stroke or throat surgery may result in dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) and depending on the outcome of a consultation with a speech and language therapist may require food to be prepared to a certain consistency.  Meals may also need to be adapted for someone with poor dentition (sore gums or lack of teeth)

Any texture modified meal starts at the soft stage so to serve the needs of the whole family you may want to opt for soft textured dishes such as:

  • Stews, casseroles and curries made with tender cuts of meat and well-cooked vegetables
  • Oven-baked or poached fish served with mash and tender vegetables
  • Scrambled egg
  • Dips
  • Porridge oats with fruit compote
  • Tuna mayonnaise
  • Well-cooked bean or lentil curries such as dahl

Fortifying meals

In some cases, you may need to adapt the meals you have prepared for the family to make them more nourishing and calorific.  This is likely to be the case if you’re caring for someone with dementia or someone who is recovering from cancer or stroke.

You don’t need to prepare separate meals, but it is likely these meals will start off as a soft texture as explained above.  Mostly fortification is about calories so keep ingredients such as cream, full fat yoghurt, coconut milk, cheese, oils and butter to hand to add to dishes you have cooked for the family.  Pureed vegetables, beans and pulses can be used to thicken dishes whilst also adding fibre (helps with digestive health) and additional vitamins and minerals.

About the Author

Rob Hobson is a registered nutritionist he also trained and worked as a public health nutritionist (MSc public health nutrition) and is Head of Nutrition at Healthspan, the UK’s number one online vitamin and supplement supplier.     Rob has a genuine and a special interest in the area of caring for carers and has worked with various bodies and care homes providing nutrition advice and guidelines.

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