Maintaining a balanced diet, eating our five a day and limiting things like sugar and alcohol. Things we all hear about and know we should aim for. But food is about so much more than that, isn’t it? Once upon a time, mealtimes were a sacred event that invited the whole family to come together and socialise while enjoying good, healthy food. However, today, it has become all too common to sit in front of the TV, often alone. 

Dan Archer, Managing Director of the in-home care provider Visiting Angels, insists that food can, and should, be used as an opportunity to do much more than fuel the body. In the ongoing fight to ensure every generation is maximising their mealtime and keeping their diet in check, he shares his vision and top tips for how families and care providers can help loved ones to reap the benefits of a great relationship with food.

Keep the mind active

We’ve all heard the term ‘brain foods’ before. There is significant evidence to suggest that a healthy mind is heavily influenced by your diet, and this only becomes more important as elderly loved ones become more limited to what they can do to stay physically active. So, for loved ones who require additional help, the definition of ‘brain foods’ should be expanded, and in order to maintain a healthy social life, make nutrition creative! Asking elderly loved ones to rewrite their beloved recipes that defined their childhood, or discussing with them how you can make the most out of food not only continues what mealtime meant to their generation, but keeps their minds active and engaged with the outside world – especially with things they genuinely have an interest in. And what better way to celebrate their relationship with food than cooking one of the recipes they have entrusted you with?

Make it a social event – preparing and eating with company

We all know how isolated the elderly generation can become. Setting aside just a few hours a week to preparing a meal with them and taking the time to sit and eat that meal in company can have an incredibly positive impact on the mental wellbeing of those who require additional care. With time becoming more and more valuable to people, it is equally, if not more valuable to those who may not be able to enjoy a loved one’s company on a regular basis. Being prepared to share the experience of food, from preparation to eating, is an important ritual that should be celebrated and practiced throughout your life.

Nurture a sense of independence and dignity

There can be nothing worse for an elderly loved one, who has spent their life enjoying mealtimes with others, to become dependent on a supermarket ready meal. While occasionally convenient, ready meals should never become the first port of call in ensuring the elderly are eating good, nutritional meals. So, enabling them to stay as independent as possible, while providing them with everything they need to receive the necessary nutrients as part of a good diet, keeps the mind and body active while maintaining their sense of dignity and pride in what they eat. While 24/7 monitoring is unrealistic, entrusting elderly loved ones to maintain their diet by providing them with a high-quality level of care in meal preparation can be a huge step in ensuring they eat well and consistently.

Dementia research shows link between taste and food

The concept of emotion memory is as prevalent in our experience with food as it is in any other formative experience we have throughout our lives. It’s common for carers to see positive responses when elderly people who are suffering from Dementia are presented with meals that meant a lot to them growing up. Encouraging a dialogue when stimuli such as food is being experienced together keeps the mind active and can often trigger responses and memories to be re-lived by those who are suffering from memory-related diseases such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s.

“At Visiting Angels, we’re committed to ensuring that all areas of our clients’ health are shown an equal level of care. We understand that the pandemic has created additional pressures on providing constant support to those in need but by following these simple steps, significant positive changes can be made to health and wellbeing without the need for round-the-clock intervention. Of course, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet isn’t the answer to all health-related worries and concerns, but it certainly has a positive effect on the wellbeing of those who may feel isolated or frustrated by their physical limitations. Why not ask for some expert advice for yourself or your loved ones, from care professionals like us who put these changes into practice every day to drastically improve the lives of people in our community.”

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By Brian