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Four Thanksgiving Meal Tips for Caregivers

Thanksgiving is just days away, and if you are like a lot of folks, you may have shifted from going to the grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving Dinner to now being the host for the annual feast.  And if you are like a lot of parents, you have learned along the way how to prepare meals for your children’s challenging palates.  You may not have recognized that there also are some unique challenges to please an older adult’s appetite as well.

            It is important to recognize a couple of aspects of seniors that may not be obvious.  First, senior metabolisms work a good deal slower than yours and a good bit differently from any teenagers at the table.  Second, their sense of smell and taste are not as acute as they were when they were younger, so you may want to adjust your dishes accordingly.  But let’s start at the top. 

  1. Especially if your senior guests are on any medications for high blood pressure, be very sparing with your use of salt as the added water retention will raise their blood pressure.  Other dinner guests who do not have the same concerns can add salt to any of the items on your menu.
  2. To compensate for less salt as well as a senior’s reduced sense of smell, be creative with your use of spices.  There is a veritable bounty of options available to use that will not make food too spicy while at the same time getting the chef rave reviews.
  3. If any of the seniors at your table wear dentures, you will want to have foods that will be easy to chew and swallow.  Don’t believe all the TV ads that show delighted seniors eating corn on the cob with their dentures.  Be careful that the dishes are moist as well, because seniors whose taste buds don’t get as stimulated may not be salivating quite as much as the rest at the table either.
  4. Tied back to their diminished appetites, be mindful of serving entrees that will pack a lot of nutritional value and calories.  If you are worried that your recipes are not up to the “senior challenge,” there is a lot of food help on the AARP ( ) web site.  Check it out.

As you put the finishing touches on your final dinner plans, it may also be helpful to just ask if your loved ones have a favorite dish they would like to have for Thanksgiving, and also find out about any new likes or dislikes.  But most of all, remember that it is about giving thanks and enjoying the company of family and friends.  Don’t forget to have a Happy Thanksgiving.

            Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  Please email your questions to


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