Getting meals delivered at home is a convenience for most but a necessity for some of our seniors.
One of the major concerns family caregivers have is whether or not their senior loved ones are getting enough food to eat. Not only enough food, but the right foods that will help keep them healthy as they age or manage their chronic diseases.
This can be especially tricky for long distance caregivers, who are not there to see how their senior is doing, peek in their refrigerator or bring them a meal regularly.
There is a way to give a little boost to your senior’s eating pattern by using home delivered meals.
Are Home Delivered Meals for Your Senior?
Seniors who are living independently at home and can shop and cook their own meals are probably not ready for home delivered meals, except when they want a break or a treat.
Some may appreciate not having to cook every day or just want to get their meals delivered from their favorite local restaurants from time to time.
Family caregivers can be comfortable these senior loved ones are able to be well nourished on their own.
However, there are many seniors who have increased difficulty getting to the supermarket, bringing home their groceries and getting the food to their table.
These more vulnerable seniors need help getting the nutritious foods they need to stay otherwise independent at home.
Signs Meal Help Might Be Beneficial
Things to look for that could signal a need for your senior to get help with meals:
- Lack of transportation – if your senior is not driving anymore and has trouble getting to the store and then getting what they buy home, it could be severely limiting the foods to which they have access.
- Lack of money – some seniors may have insufficient funds to pay for their basic needs, including housing, medications and healthcare, which could be limiting the amount and quality of the food they can afford or perceive they can afford.
- Inability to safely prepare their own meals – some seniors have difficulty cooking their own meals due to weakness, poor vision, trouble with their joints from arthritis which could impair their function, stroke recovery or cognitive impairments. It could be dangerous for them to use the stove or oven safely or stand for long periods to cook. These conditions could keep them out of the kitchen and scrimping on what they eat.
- Social isolation – if your senior is alone and stays home most of the time they could be lonely and even depressed. A recent loss of a spouse could trigger a decrease in intake. Eating alone and feeling isolated can have a negative impact on the amount of food your senior eats.
- Loss of appetite – if your senior tells you they just aren’t hungry, they don’t do anything so don’t need to eat or some other explanation, it is important to be sure they are eating enough. A loss of appetite could result from multiple medications, a physical cause such as infection, new medical problem, mouth pain, or fatigue. Having pain or being too tired to eat can lead to poor eating habits.
- Chewing and swallowing difficulties — the harder it is to chew certain foods or swallow without choking, the more likely it is a senior will cut back on eating, which can lead to eliminating important nutrients such as protein from the diet. Low protein intakes can be a cause of muscle loss and lack of mobility.
Solutions for Getting Nutritious Meals
No senior should be hungry, especially when there are options to get them the food they need. There are several ways you can help them get the meals they need by just learning more about the options and helping them get set up in one or more of these solutions.
- Meals on Wheels – this is a national program but it is implemented at the local level, so each program is a bit different. Homebound seniors qualify but there could be a sliding scale fee for the service. The meals served are overseen by a dietitian nutritionist and the meals, by regulation, provide one third of a daily senior’s nutritional needs. The meals include an entrée, vegetable, starch, fruit and beverage. The meals can be delivered for weekdays or seven days, can be made for a special diet, or served either frozen or ready to eat. Some programs will even provide a microwave so that the meals can be safely reheated. The extra benefit from participating in a Meals on Wheels program near you is that your senior gets a visit from a caring person. Many times the volunteers become like a part of the family and are companions who care about the well-being of your senior. Locate a program near you at www.mowaa.org.
- Local companies – there are companies across the country that provide a meal delivery service geared toward seniors. They could serve meals based on specific medical diets or foods that they choose. Check your local area for a company to prepare and deliver meals.
- Congregate dining as part of a senior center program – going to the senior center for a meal in addition to activities and peer socialization. Many offer transportation to and from the centers.
- SNAP benefits – eligible seniors can receive funds for food buying, including Farmer’s Market produce. You can check BenefitsCheckUp.org to see if your senior qualifies.
- Senior Food Banks are available to seniors who qualify by providing a variety of food items. You can check with you local Area on Aging services to see if there are agencies to help your senior.
- Local restaurants are now preparing To Go meals and some will deliver. You can check out the menu online and even order over the internet.
- Online grocery ordering and home delivery services — some grocery stores can even deliver pre-cooked meals from their deli departments. You can order from grocery chains to reduce the transportation difficulties and be sure your senior has the food in the pantry and refrigerator that they need for their health.
- Personal chefs can come into your senior’s home and prepare a specific meal for them, no planning/cooking/cleanup! Some chefs can bring the prepared meal to your senior – no fuss, no muss! This could be pricey depending on who you trust to come to your senior’s home but it could be fun occasionally.
Your senior loved one’s health could be impaired if they are not eating enough to nourish them as they age. It is not uncommon for seniors to suffer from poor nutrition.
As the family caregiver, it is a good plan for you to do an ‘inspection’ of their kitchen looking in the refrigerator and pantry to be sure there is adequate nourishment. Watch while they prepare food or microwave a meal to be sure they are still capable of meeting this need.
If you have a concern, you can certainly try some of the options and get them the help they need. Of course you could be the one to bring food over if that is possible, but if it is not it’s good to know there are solutions to this problem that could help your senior now.