What to Do About Aging Parents

Even if you’ve spoken with your parents about aging, the signs can still surprise you. This advice will help you get through five common scenarios.

By Joanne Kenen
Picture frames on tableJames Merrell

If You’re Worried That Your Parents Are Eating Poorly or Irregularly…

Take a discreet look around their kitchen, says Ginzler. Is the pantry stocked, or do you see fast-food wrappers? Is there healthy food in the refrigerator, or are many items expired? Go shopping with your parents and stock up on foods that are convenient and nutritious. Or order groceries online and have healthy prepared or frozen meals delivered. Share recipes, particularly quick and simple ones, and freeze single servings of home-cooked meals. “Visit and cook together” if you live near one another, says Ginzler.
 
Eating out frequently is not a problem in itself, but steer them toward healthy options. Older people, especially, should not load up on foods high in calories, trans and saturated fats, sugar, or sodium, which can raise the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. Fast foods can lead to all three, says Bonnie Liebman, director of nutrition at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in Washington, D.C. One way to have hassle-free healthy meals―and a chance to socialize―is at community and senior centers that offer lunch. (Do a Web search for “congregate meals” in your community.)
 
You should also make it a priority to consult with a registered dietitian or a licensed nutritionist at least once, says Connie Bales, R.D., Ph.D., a senior fellow at the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development. Parents may be more open to the advice of a professional. “They may not want to take advice from the person they fed strained peas to,” says Bales. With that guidance, they can make healthy diet choices at home and when eating out.

 
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