The holiday season can be a time of celebrations and great memories.  But for many of your clients, the holidays are a time of loneliness and even depression, especially if family isn’t nearby to celebrate.

We asked food scientist, Beth Scholer, CC, CDM, CFPP
from Caregiver’s Kitchen to provide some tips on
making mealtimes more memorable for seniors.

Here’s what she told us:

No matter one’s culture or religious practices, special meals are almost always part of a holiday tradition. Here are some tips for using mealtime as an opportunity to create comfort and joy and help elders to get the nutrition that is vital to their health and well-being.

Honor Culture and Traditions

The holidays present an opportunity for you to learn about an elder’s food culture and traditions. Asking about favorite holiday meals from past years will help to start the conversation. Can you offer to prepare a favorite dish? Perhaps your clients would even enjoy the opportunity to teach you how to make their favorite traditional foods.

Elders enjoy sharing mealtime memories from their younger years. Caregivers can use these conversations to learn about food traditions and preferences.

Making Holiday Memories

Caregivers can go a step farther and plan a special holiday meal. This can be very comforting if the client’s family isn’t nearby. Consider inviting friends or neighbors to share in the meal. Planning is a very important part, as it helps to get the elder excited and gives them something to look forward too

Work with the elder to choose a few favorite dishes but consider special dietary needs, like low sodium. We want the elder to fully enjoy the special meal, not to end up in the hospital for a heart failure event the next day.

Feed the Senses

Aging changes the way we taste food, so it’s very important to feed all the senses. Follow these tips for using the food’s flavor, aroma and presentation to enhance mealtimes.

  • The smell of food contributes greatly to its flavor, it will also stimulate the appetite. Garlic, onion or ginger add great aroma, as well as using cooking methods like roasting or braising.
  • Food should be well-seasoned. Remember there are many ways to flavor food without just using salt. Fresh and dried herbs and spices, vinegar, citrus, mustard, honey, and other sauces all add different dimensions of flavor.
  • The meal should be well presented on the plate. Add an edible garnish or use special dinnerware to set a festive mood.
  • Set a pretty table. This can be done with a colorful table cloth or centerpiece.
  • Finally, sitting with the elder as they eat can add to the cheerful mood and encourage the elder to eat better.

Holiday meals are the perfect time to connect with clients. Elders appreciate the effort to serve their favorite foods and honor their culture and traditions. Caregivers can take pride in making mealtime a meaningful experience for their client; strengthening the special bond. Think of mealtime as more than just feeding the body, but also as food for the soul.

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