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Helping Resistant Parents Change Their Diets

By Melissa Hill, 8:00 am on

Food is an issue that can cause some of the bitterest fights between an aging parent and the adult child who is taking care of them. Whether it is a matter of eating more, eating less or simply changing what is being eaten, a “food fight” can be one of the most frustrating aspects of caregiving. At Home Care Assistance of Oklahoma, we know that temptations for unhealthy albeit delicious foods are at every corner, and we wanted to provide a few tips that caregivers can utilize to help their loved one make the diet changes needed for a healthier lifestyle.

  • Find good replacements for food your loved one has to give up. Let’s say your parent has been diagnosed with celiac disease and must give up wheat, but one of his or her favorite kinds of foods has always been Italian. A good way to make this transition would be to find gluten free, corn- or rice-based pastas to replace and substitute the original wheat option. If you can find alternatives that mimic the foods your parent already likes, you will find that changing the diet will be much easier.
  • Give them options whenever possible. “Food fights” are often not about food, they are about choice. Many elderly adults will become resentful if they feel their choices are being taken away from them. Food is one area where they know they can keep their autonomy and it can be a struggle if not impossible to force a senior to eat a certain thing. So instead of saying, “Dad, aren’t you going to eat that salmon patty I just made you?”, try giving options like, “Dad, do you want me to use that recipe of mom’s for salmon patties tonight or would you like more of that baked chicken I made on Tuesday?” Sometimes, just the simple offering of choice can avoid a lot of conflict.
  • Don’t chide. It is easy to berate your loved one for cheating on whatever diet they are supposed to be compliant with, and many times you hear children saying something like, “Dad, you know that Snickers bar is bad for your blood sugar!” While it does feel good to vent your frustration, it often can make your parent more defiant about what they are doing. Instead, try to compromise with your parent and find an alternative you both can live with. For instance, instead of having a whole Snickers bar, get bite-sized Snickers bars or some sort of low-sugar or low-fat dessert that you both will be happy with.

Sometimes, no matter what method you try, a food fight will ensue. In that case, try not to get too frustrated with your loved one and attempt to get back on the straight and narrow tomorrow. Changing habits that your loved one has had for years is not going to happen overnight!

For more information about senior nutrition or for help developing and carrying out a balanced meal plan for your aging loved one, reach out to Home Care Assistance. We are proud to serve seniors throughout Edmond and Oklahoma City and offer flexible hourly and live-in home care plans that are designed to promote senior health and wellness. Call 405-285-4191 to speak with a Care Manager and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation today.