Cooking for Seniors

cooking for seniorsMy mother is 82 years old, and I’ve been caring for her since my father died a couple years ago. She insists on living on her own and refuses to move in with my husband and me, so each week I drive across town to check up on her. My daily visits typically entail the basic stuff – helping her clean up the house, making sure that she’s happy and healthy, giving her her medications, and cooking for her. When I first took on the caregiving responsibility, I found the cooking part to be the most difficult. My mom wasn’t overly interested in eating and had a hard time eating and enjoying a lot of the meals that I was preparing. After trial and error and many conversations, we figured out what foods work for her and what won’t.

I know many others caring for an elderly family member experience the same problem at some point or another. As we get older, our taste buds change and we no longer eat the same way we used to. Not to mention that with a more sedentary lifestyle, a reduced appetite is natural. Yet, it’s important to ensure that our loved one is getting the nutrition they need to stay healthy. Here are some of the things that I’ve learned along the way:

Softer Foods

This is one of the most important adaptations I’ve had to make. Since my mother, as well as many seniors, wears dentures and has teeth that are no longer that strong, I prepare meals that are easy to chew. Additionally, as people age, they don’t produce as much saliva, so it’s important to prepare meals that are also moist, like soups and stews. Usually I’ll cook up a large pot of stew, put some in the fridge for the week, and tightly package the rest into small containers in the freezer for future leftovers.

Let Them Choose the Recipes

This probably seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve spoken with so many caregivers who have no idea why their senior doesn’t like any of their meals. Maybe if they had a choice they would! I like to pick up a cookbook that I know has mostly healthy, nutritious meals, and then I look it over with my mom and we decide what I’ll make the rest of the week and how we can adjust some of the recipes to meet her needs.

Occasionally Include Comfort Foods

“Occasionally” being the key word here! Like many seniors her age, my mother isn’t always very interested in eating. Every now and then, just to pique her appetite, I like to cook her some of her favorite foods – even if it might not be the healthiest choice for her. She loves porkchops and mashed potatoes with butter and bread, and ice cream for dessert, so those are special treats that I put into the meal rotation.

Enlist Some Help

This has been especially important for my mother and me. When you spend most of your time cooking food, cleaning up around the house, and doing the laundry, you’re not left with much time to talk and catch up with your loved one. A year ago we made the decision to hire some additional help from a local Boynton Beach home care service. The caregiver comes by several times a week to help my mother, so I have more time to spend with her.

Caregiving can be a difficult responsibility, but it’s important to remember why you do it – out of love. When I cook healthy meals that my mother enjoys, I know that she’s not only benefitting from good nutrition, but also from my presence and care.

What to do with your free time

Sending your children to school is a blessing. Not just for them, but for your free time. You won’t believe what you will be able to accomplish with just a few hours to yourself.

depositphotos_41998281-Woman-making-french-press-coffee-at-breakfastMaybe you’ll go to the gym again. Maybe you’ll catch up on all your favorite shows. Maybe you’ll be able to head back to work. Maybe you’ll pick up a new hobby you never thought you would be able to. The possibilities are endless in this win/win situation with you and your children.

While it might be a little hard to let go at first, and you definitely will not stop thinking about them, letting go is good.

But don’t slack on the kids. They are your pride and joy, and you must treat them as such. Make sure they get to a good school. If you live in the Wesley Chapel area, click here. Sending them to a good preschool gives you the peace of mind to focus on yourself again.

While the kids are away, think about what you miss. Do you want to eat out with your friends? Do you miss being able to run for miles without worrying about if your child will wake up? Do you just want to sleep in?

There are plenty of ways to start your day with them. The right breakfast, like scrambled eggs or oatmeal, can start their day off on the right foot and yours too. Everyone should be eating as healthfully as possible to get the best start to your day.

Try something different every now and then. Make your waffles with bacon built into them. Just toss in a slice of bacon with the batter and watch the waffle iron sizzle. Or get fancy with your french toast and toss in some fruit slices as it cooks for a warm dessert flavor early in the morning. The possibilities are endless in the kitchen.


You can focus on home improvement. Look around the house and see what could use some sprucing up. An investment here and there, whether it’s time or money, can go a long way to giving your family life a little more variety and giving you a lot of happiness.

What’s nice is that your children are working on improving themselves (probably) so you should be too. Maybe reinvest in that gym membership and become a runner again. Maybe you should pick up a new skill, or learn a new language. You’re only limited by your will.

So don’t limit yourself. Go ahead and try something new that you never thought you would be able to. And then come back home to your family and have them wonder what they ever did to deserve you.