Weekly column

It’s Thanksgiving again! Millions of families across the country are preparing themselves for turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, candied yams and a family feast for the masses. Year after year, it’s the same routine that we all know and love and stress over. That is, of course, until something or someone throws the routine for a loop. The common cause: an aging loved one, who is perhaps no longer the independent, lucid and physically capable person they’ve always been. If you’re one of the millions of Americans this year who is more worried about preparing for a senior citizen than about preparing your turkey, don’t worry. Here are a few tips to help.

Preparing meals for seniors

There are some things you should know about preparing meals for seniors. The first thing is that seniors do not metabolize food in the same way that they once did. And what’s more, their taste buds might not be as sensitive to flavors as in years past. Don’t be surprised or upset when your loved one doesn't eat as much of your casserole like he or she used to. In fact, you might want to think about preparing something special for your loved one, to cater to his or her changing dietary habits and needs. Tips taken from http://www.associatedcontent.com/ offer advice:

1. Make food that is easy to chew and swallow. Dentures and reduced saliva production might make tough and dry foods difficult.

2. Use less salt. You don’t want to cause a dangerous spike in blood pressure or worsen water retention. Remember, you can always salt the food on your own plate later.

3. Add more seasoning. To make up for the lower salt, aging taste buds and the dulling effect of some prescription medications, use savory – but not spicy – seasonings to provide more flavor.

4. Use recipes rich with nutrition. Seniors need to eat food that is high in nutritional content and calories to make up for their often reduced appetites. You can find good information on www.nutritiondata.com for the nutritional and caloric content of food. Check AARPs recipe site for great Thanksgiving recipes for seniors.

5. Ask questions. Take a moment to ask your loved one what they enjoy eating these days. If they always loved a particular dish, ask them if they still do. Ask them if there is anything they don’t like.

Keeping an eye out for hints of dementia

If dietary issues are not your concern, memory loss might be. Early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s are often first detected or otherwise confirmed at holiday family gatherings. This might be for the simple reason that it is the only time of year the whole family gets together. It might also be that with distant relatives around and a disruption to the everyday routines, the conditions are optimal for noticing memory loss. Tips from blog.ourparents.com can help in being aware of possible signs.

1. Look in the refrigerator. Is there expired food?

2. Drive their car. Check the state of the tires, oil, antifreeze.

3. Investigate the house. Check for cleanliness.

4. Take note of how the pets are doing.

5. Talk to the neighbors — this can be a bonus if you can ask them to keep an eye out on your aging loved one, even if just from afar.

6. Identify any marked declines from the previous year, especially in organization, cleanliness and personal hygiene.

7. Go to the source. Sit down with your loved one. Ask if anything has been bothering them. Ask if you can help with anything. Ask them questions about what they have been doing lately. Ask, ask, ask. Often hints will come out in what they say or what they can’t remember.

Most importantly, enjoy being with your family. Holidays are stressful enough because we forget about what is really important: making memories and being with family. While everyone will always relish the great food you cook, family memories are made from the time you forgot to turn on the oven to cook the turkey. Holidays should be about making memories with your loved one. For more information on this and other topics of interest to seniors, contact the Butler County Department on Aging at 775-0500.