Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Eating Alone

Friends were shocked when a very independent, accomplished 80-year-old widow sold her home and moved to dramatically smaller quarters in an independent living complex. Before, during, and after her husband’s death, her days were filled with activities; but from almost the moment he died she told everyone she “dreaded” eating alone and being alone at night.

Preparing and eating healthy meals can be a big hurdle for people living alone. While older couples can enjoy each other’s company at meal time, the thought of eating alone is painful for some older widowed people, and dreaded by others. Still others cook and eat alone, although transportation to grocery stores can be a problem.  In such instances, adult children can schedule a time (or two) each week to take parents grocery shopping (or hire someone to do this). Also thoughtful still-driving neighbors can offer rides. Some older people make plans to share a taxi when they go shopping.

One widowed mother, on a fixed income (as are many), goes to the market with someone twice a week. Never-the-less her daughter buys extra groceries on sale (3 for $2.00) to share with her mother who likes to cook. It enables her mother to have items she might not want to afford otherwise, while making reimbursement by a proud parent, who doesn’t want to accept "charity," insignificant or unnecessary. Dignity upheld.

This same daughter not only brings groceries during her weekly visits, but cooks with her mother, when time allows. She and her mother enjoy doing something real together, making/baking then freezing some in small portions to ensure delicious food at another time. A famous writer said she wanted to participate in life-- didn't want to be a "passenger in life." Doesn't cooking make one a participant?

Question: How can adult children enhance parent's nutrition? Suggestions:
  1. Give a "Fruit of the Month" gift for special occasions (wwwHarry and David).
  2. Bring cheese and crackers and/or fruit, instead of candy and cookies, when visiting any older person.
  3. Bring sugar-free drinks and treats for those on sugar-restricted diets.
  4. Bring flavored bottled water which can incent even non-water drinkers to drink (especially important for older people who don't experience thirst as much and can easily become dehydrated).
  5. Nutritious snacks like peanut butter filled pretzels with or without salt are available at Trader Joe's, as are "blister peanuts."
  6. Meals on Wheels supplies a complete, nutritious hot meal daily. Fine for aging parents who don't require gourmet-type food.
Isn't ensuring--to the best of our ability--that parents have nutritious food an important priority.

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