Retirement Home Food, General Food With The Elderly

I'd like to dedicate a portion of my blog to everything I've learned and am learning from being in the sandwich generation and retirement homes and all of it. Being in the sandwich generation means you are sandwiched between taking care of elderly parents while raising little kids of your own.

This part is based on my experience touring many retirement homes and trying their food and helping my parents with their groceries, diets, etc.

1. Sense of taste changes when you age. My parents went to the same restaurants and ate the same food for a long time so I didn't notice until they moved into a retirement home. At first they both hated it, but it did not take a long time for one of them to get used to the quality of the food and the variety. My parents used to live where they could walk to any kind of cuisine in great restaurants. There's not going to be any Indian food, Greek food or any of that in most retirement homes in the US. It's going to be "American". After some time I did notice that my once food snob parents were raving about the food at their place. It looks like Campbell's condensed soup and they are acting like Wolfgang Puck came and personally cooked them dinner. So it's just another weird thing to try to wrap your head around that you may not agree on food.

2. I made my parents a very nice list of all the things that are on the way from my house to their retirement home when they moved. They could care less and I'm sure it got lost while they moved. DO though get at least 1 good pizza/pasta delivery menu for them. They will feel like avoiding the dining room from time to time and everybody likes that kind of food right? Ask at the front desk of the retirement home if they have any suggestions.

3. Your parents will become like your children and will not eat a banana even if they have leg cramps if they don't want to eat a banana. You won't either someday.

4. Food is a close personal and often messed up area in our lives. It may reveal things about your parents' general condition so pay attention to it. My parents spent about $100 on candy every week for a long time. They gave some of it away so it wasn't necessarily about how they were eating too much candy, but $100 a week on candy. They would get into heated arguments about ice cream. Shopping for ice cream and listening to ice cream drama took hours of my life week after week for a good long time. My parents also had already long lost their ability to manage food i.e. how long does stuff last in the fridge. If your parents have a lot of space and a full kitchen then you need to force a conversation about how the grocery shopping will get done and what their budget is,etc. And expect that you will do most of the work including cleaning out their fridge. If your parents can still drive and figure out how to get to the grocery store and back then you'll have an easier time that way. I was often at Jewel with a little one in diapers or potty training, 1 person with dementia and 1 person with dementia, low vision and lots of anger. This was awful, stressful and very difficult to navigate. Have their groceries delivered and have your own delivered as well. Take everything off your plate that you can. And if they're not at this stage yet just tuck that nugget of information away in your brain for later.

5. The food at these places is pretty much the same. If you can afford a really fancy schmancy place you should expect the food to be a little bit better but most of the time you're not going to find another place where the food is so much better. I asked a salesperson once if she had ever eaten the food at the place that she was raving about and she look shocked and upset and said no!

6. Going out to eat? Buckle your seatbelts! The music is going to be too loud, they are going to have trouble walking in there, booths are sometimes very awkward, they may need an escort to the bathroom, it's going to be too cold and you'll sit under a fan and a vent (even if you don't) and they may not be able to read the menu or concentrate on it or make any decisions. The whole thing will take forever.

7. The social situation in the dining rooms is sometimes ok, sometimes boring, sometimes contentious and dramatic and sometimes sad. Definitely ask if they are free to sit wherever they want. Big thing to avoid? When my parents were in the middle of moving and I mean like movers are bringing stuff in and it is still chaos and they are exhausted and emotionally spent, a salesperson came in and grilled I mean absolutely grilled my parents about who they would sit with at dinner that night and could they make plans to get together with this couple...I interrupted and said this isn't a good time let's do this another day please. The salesperson, probably still reeling from that one time I asked if she ever tried the food, left and I think she came back later when I was gone. Interrupt on your parents behalf especially during this time. They don't have the strength to deal with this.