As caregivers, we have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders. One of the most important things we deal with is to make sure our loved one continues to get a healthy and balanced diet. After all, whatever chronic health issue they are dealing with - stroke, dementia, arthritis, Parkinson's - will be made worse if they are malnourished.

A delicious bowl of tomato soup is delicious, nutritious, and easy to swallow - perfect for your loved one with mechanical eating issues.

As you and your loved one plan her meals, ask yourself a few things first:
  • Does she have a loss of appetite? 

Many elderly people do not eat as much as their younger days. They might eat a large meal only once per day, or might just eat several small snacks per day. Either way is fine. What is more important than quantity is quality. Forcing her to eat more than she wants may cause her to stop eating completely.

If she has poor appetite, you might offer her something she enjoys, such as ice cream, along with a healthy food, such as blueberries or steamed broccoli. Ask her to eat a few bites of the healthy food before enjoying the ice cream.

  • Does she have any mechanical issues that prevent her from eating normally? 

The elderly may have physical limitations that make eating harder, such as trouble swallowing or dentures. In these cases, offer her foods that are easy to chew and swallow. For example, make sure that her vegetables are well cooked (but not over cooked) and are nice and soft.

Soups are a good choice for people with mechanical eating problems. Tomato soup is a good option; it is easy to eat, easy on the stomach and provides a feeling of fullness. And, it's healthy.

  • Does she have any medical or health issues that require nutritional changes? 

Some health problems make it more difficult how she eats. A good example is type 2 diabetes. A diabetes patient must eat smaller meals more often. Fruit and juices should be limited as they have a lot of sugar. It also is a good idea to plan meals well in advance to make sure carbohydrates are consistent. For instance, she may be able to have ice cream, as long as you also serve protein, such as grilled chicken. 

Knowing the answers to the above will allow you to make better diet choices for your loved one. As you plan her meals, try to be patient, and make the eating experience enjoyable for her. Make wholesome, nutritious foods that will keep her strong and healthy as possible, and mix those in with treats that she enjoys. This will ensure that she maintains her nutrition for many years.