Monday, September 27, 2021

Culinary creativity keeps ill elderly eating

Chefs Adrian Arias, left, and Keyva S. Linton show off plates of pureed food that have been styled back into their original shapes at Northbrook Inn.

     Today’s lunch menu features beef stew, mashed potatoes and gravy, with green beans as a side dish, a watermelon amuse bouche and a peanut butter cookie for dessert.
     So chef Adrian Arias takes cooked green beans, puts them in a food processor and purees them, adding vegetable broth to boost flavor, a bit of starch for body and several drops of green food coloring. Pureeing with broth dulls the hue of the beans, so the green dye snaps it back. Then the mash goes into a pastry bag and is piped into a facsimile stack of green beans.
     By now you might be wondering what strange new haute cuisine this could be. The answer is, we’re not visiting any three star Lincoln Park scientific gastronomy hot spot but in the spotless kitchen of the Northbrook Inn Memory Care Community.
     Which brings us to the bad news.
     Most of you know that Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia rob a person of the ability to remember. The body endures, almost mockingly, while the personality recedes. It can be baffling and terrifying for sufferers and heartbreaking for their loved ones.
     As bad as that is, memory is only the first of a series of losses. Dementia is a hell with many levels. For instance.

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  1. I was the primary at home hospice care giver for my Mom, who suffered from dementia, before she passed away. Fortunately with the assistance of visiting CNAs, nurse, and two caring sisters. I asked for advice and listened to health care providers. Here are some tips based on my experience. At this stage of life forget about dietary restrictions like no fat and low sodium, it's more important to provide food they like and will eat. If they are not eating enough, losing weight, give them a supplement like Ensure Plus to drink. Putting a plate full of food in front of them can be too overwhelming, and they may not be able to eat anything. Try small portions over time. Alternate food containing protein and carbohydrates each day like fish, chicken, and beef. Discuss with the primary care physician what are essential medications, and what can be eliminated. Some nursing homes don't have red meat on their menu, then of necessity prescribe an iron supplement. Talk to a nurse or dietician first, when visiting a patient bring them a favorite treat. Last resort is to have a feeding tube surgically inserted.

  2. After my knee replacements several years ago, I spent two, two week periods in rehab, which while a separate section of the nursing home, used the same kitchen.
    The food was mostly horrible, with the hamburgers being the worst.
    The one thing they made decent was french toast.

  3. My brother-in-law is 82 and has dementia. He doesn't hide the food in his cheeks when he can't (or won't) eat it. He just hides the whole plate. So he has to be watched constantly. My wife's family is enduring many different kinds of hell. She has told me that she wishes her brother would die. Unfortunately, their mother lived to nearly 90, which means there may be years of heartbreak and misery ahead.


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