Senior Spotlight: Special Diets

One of the things that families of my patients often ask is “How can I make sure my parent or loved one is getting what they need if they’re required to follow a special diet, without taking away their independence?”   Instead of trying to take control completely,  I’ll often suggest having a conversation about the options that are available, to see what might be the best fit for their lives, while giving caretakers peace of mind.

Here are some stress-free ways programs designed to help seniors with special food needs.

1. Meals On Wheels

Meals On Wheels is the largest national provider of senior meal services. The umbrella organization is composed of 5,000 nutrition programs found in towns and cities across the country. In some counties, Meals On Wheels is the only service that distributes meals to the home-bound.

2. Personal Chef to Go

Personal Chef to Go delivers lunches and dinners that follow the American Heart Association’s guidelines for healthy living. Meals designed for couples, singles or families also incorporate ethnic flavors such as Mediterranean, Asian or Latin American.

3., based in Los Altos, California, prides itself on delivering handmade, homestyle main dishes, desserts, soups and sides. “We don’t do gourmet-style food. We make the kinds of things people would have had during Sunday dinner with family or friends at home when they were growing up,” says CEO Greg Miller. The frozen-meal service also can accommodate special dietary needs including low-sodium, diabetic, renal, dialysis and portion-controlled diets.

4. Senior Centers

Some community senior centers provide hot meals for local residents or can recommend reputable meal services for the area. “Any average Joe can open up a service to make money off seniors, so it’s important to find businesses with good reputations,” says Liz Perrigue, a certified senior advisor with Visiting Angels, a non-medical home care agency in Pasadena, California. Churches also might offer in-person or takeout meals to local seniors. Check with the local municipality for businesses and locations.

5. Personal Chef

If you have the cash to splurge, consider hiring a personal chef to cook in your parents’ home several times a week, or prepare and freeze a number of meals at once to last throughout the week. Because personal chefs cook for individual clients, they can tailor meals to seniors’ unique dietary needs and preferences. Gather background information and references on the chef—they will come into the senior’s home, so it’s important to be safe.

Also, if you’re not sure what’s a good start for basic nutrition, here’s a handy chart you can share!


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