Celebrating Improvement - Celebrating Life with Paula Blog at Allrecipes.com - 321993

Celebrating Life with Paula

Celebrating Improvement 
Feb. 14, 2014 12:33 pm 
Updated: Feb. 20, 2014 1:12 pm

My elderly mother is going on 8 weeks now of needing 24/7 care. I still can't get over how one can go from total independence to needing help bathing, dressing, walking even. I am convinced more than ever that exercise is a must, even into old age. My mother lost the ability to walk independently and even the ability to chew and swallow easily. Home Health physical therapy has really helped her regain strength. The speech therapist has helped by assigning exercises that will strengthen her tongue and throat muscles. And the spine doctor had her fitted for a back brace that really relieves the back pain. We have an appointment next week with a gastro doctor, so I am hoping he will give a lot of answers to the swallowing and other problems she is having as well. My sister and I are seeing improvement in her and are very grateful for that. 

Since my husband comes every night for dinner, I try to fix something that will be good for her, yet will feed him and me as well. The speech therapist recommends we puree her food, not to a liquid, but small enough so that she doesn't have to chew forever in order to get it down. I had asked on The Buzz for suggestions, so I am working my way through those that many of you made. The first meal I fixed was SLOW COOKER BEEF STROGANOFF I. It was very tender and quite delicious, even if her pureed portion did look like dog food. I had such a difficult time giving it to her looking like it did. But she very sweetly took the first bite and said, "Mmmm. That's good." 

The next meal I made was SLOW COOKER CHICKEN AND DRESSING along with a baked sweet potato. I knew this would be soft enough to serve "as is" and not have to puree it. I had served it the last time I had stayed with her, but she thoroughly enjoyed having it again. 

I made SLOW COOKER HAM AND SCALLOPED POTATOES along with steamed carrots seasoned with Greek seasoning. While the potato dish tasted good, I didn't like the fact that the sauce separated. Again, it was so tender that all I had to do was mash it with a fork to make it easy enough for her to swallow.

At this point, I realized that while slow cooker recipes are perfect for my mother because the foods (particularly meats) come out extremely soft and tender, getting the food IN the slow cooker was almost impossible! My mornings were totally used for her care and home health appointments. I never had any down time until about 2:00. So the next recipe I tried was CHEESY STUFFED SHELLS. This might have been her favorite. She has trouble eating pasta for some reason, so I just separated the shell for her and let her eat the center filling. She loved the cheesy spinach and ricotta. 

In the beginning my mother was eating very little. She just filled up quickly. She needs more calories, so finding a way to get them in her has been really difficult. She really likes soup at lunchtime, so I finally figured out a way to get some extra calories in. I make chicken salad, ham salad, and egg salad as I always have and then puree them with my immersion blender. They end up being more like a "spread" than a salad, but the flavor is still the same. So this week I made her favorite CREAM OF PIMIENTO SOUP and served it along with a small bowl of the spread. She ate every bite!

I'm continuing this blog about my mother mainly because so many of you have expressed that you are caring for elderly parents, too, and appreciate hearing what I am serving my mother. I would love to hear of your ideas for meals as well. It's hard enough but with so many limitations that my mother has, it becomes quite a challenge to serve meals for her (not spicy, really really tender meats, able to smush with a fork or puree). Feel free to leave me suggestions for meals. And thanks for stopping by and reading.  

Feb. 14, 2014 12:43 pm
Good news. Glad to know she is doing better. Sounds as though your hard work is really paying off. If you have trouble getting things going early enough in the day for a slow cooker, I'm wondering if a pressure cooker might be a help for your food prep instead? Go fast instead of slow, but get similar results!
Feb. 14, 2014 1:17 pm
Poached eggs were the only thing my mother wanted and could keep down in her last weeks. I am so happy your mother is recovering and has more options.
Feb. 14, 2014 5:21 pm
Good news, Paula! Since she loved the stuffed shells, I thought of one of Ina Garten's recipes that is amazing. Here's the link: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/spinach-gratin-recipe.html
Feb. 14, 2014 5:48 pm
Another way to get calories is smoothies (veggie and fruits) as well as you can add whey protein or soy protein into them...
Feb. 14, 2014 6:26 pm
Maybe Chicken and Noodles would be good? Glad she is improving. YOU are a gem!!
Feb. 15, 2014 7:44 am
Thanks so much for your ideas and suggestions, everyone. Jaysashiangel, smoothies would be a great thing to get calories in her. Believe me, I've tried. I tried fruit smoothies and green smoothies, with and without the whey protein. She doesn't like them! How is that possible??? I love them! She doesn't like cold drinks, so I'm guessing that's it. I don't know. Puzzling. I can get her to drink warmed milk with peanut butter melted in it. So that gives her some calories.
Feb. 15, 2014 8:44 am
Hi Paula, you are truly a godsend for your Mom. I know how much time it takes to care for your mom. When my dad was alive, he broke some ribs, and it was hard for him to get out of bed. He was used to going out for breakfast, being independent and it was hard on him to accept our help. I was lucky I have 3 brothers who helped me.
Feb. 15, 2014 1:04 pm
Lela - I am fortunate to have a sister who helps with my mother's care. We each take a week at a time. It really helps having that off week to do things at our own homes.
Feb. 15, 2014 6:46 pm
caring for a loved one is a thankless task...as it should be. but on behalf of your mother, I thank you. I know thanks are not required, but still warranted! I wish you, your sister and everyone associated with her care the best wishes.
Feb. 15, 2014 7:36 pm
Thank, gderr. I know you know what it's like to care for a loved one and to want the very best for her.
Feb. 16, 2014 3:14 pm
i was thinking as marie- mama wanted egg and olive-- great protien even just a couple of bites here and there help- glad things are coming along- glad she is enjoying some of the foods- prayers continue for all of ya'll-
Feb. 16, 2014 4:44 pm
Thanks for those prayers, nanny!
Feb. 17, 2014 11:46 am
My mom loved soup and didn't want meat unless it was chopped really fine. I added soft tofu to soups like split pea with ham, bean and ham, and broccoli and cheese. All were soft enough for her and if it needed some blending, could just do her portion. Plus they freeze well. None of us noticed the tofu and its a good source of protein. Hugs and blessings to you. It's tough!
Feb. 17, 2014 1:38 pm
still emeralds - You know, we never know how much a caregiver does until we are the caregiver! My mom was the caregiver for my daddy who had cancer. I had no clue what all she did for him.
Feb. 17, 2014 1:38 pm
Heidi - I've never gotten in to tofu, but maybe it's about time I gave it a try. I see your point. Thanks for the suggestion.
Feb. 17, 2014 6:01 pm
I'm glad you mentioned that, still emeralds. I did some googling after reading Heidi's post and determined the silken tofu might be the type to buy. Glad you confirmed it.
Feb. 19, 2014 1:01 am
Hi Paula. I'm glad your mom is doing better. I cared for DMIL & she had a another problem where we had to add a slight thickener to her drinks. You mentioned your mom has a problem with pasta. Something I made was orzo cooked in part broth or with a little chicken granules, soft but not mushy, not completely drained, add pats of butter & sprinkle of garlic powder & parm. Silky, soft & easy to swallow, no chewing. Sometimes grated carrot or finely minced broccoli or cauliflower florets cooked with the orzo. No chewing needed. A treat was the tender insides of cornbread (no crust) covered with whole milk (didn't like buttermilk).
Feb. 19, 2014 11:23 am
I hadn't thot of orzo, HotGrandma. Great idea! Thanks for some good suggestions!
Feb. 20, 2014 7:41 am
Hugs to you, Paula. Your time is limited - did you ever make a crustless pumpkin pie? That would be a treat as well as some nutrition. No worries about chewing! Prayers...
Feb. 20, 2014 7:42 am
Hugs to you, Paula. Your time is limited - did you ever make a crustless pumpkin pie? That would be a treat as well as some nutrition. No worries about chewing! Prayers...
Feb. 20, 2014 8:57 am
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About Me
I'm a wife, mother of 2, and grandmother of 6. I love to cook. I especially like to cook new and different recipes. I don't like to have the same meals week after week. My husband has decided it really doesn't matter whether he likes a new recipe or not because he won't see it again for a very long time anyway!
My favorite things to cook
I like to cook entrees and desserts. I like preparing good, down-to-earth cooking. I also decorate cakes, mostly for the grandchildren now.
My favorite family cooking traditions
Holidays bring out the traditions: chocolate chip cheese ball; crockpot chicken and dressing; and broccoli salad, sweet potatoes and butterscotch pie handed down from past generations. Another thing that must be tradition in my family: we all make new recipes when we have company! My mother, sister, daughter, and I all do this. My daddy never understood why we would risk making something we had never made before. Actually, none of us has ever served company a new recipe that didn't taste good.
My cooking triumphs
Cake decorating: wedding cakes, bridal and baby shower cakes, birthday cakes: Little Pirate, Cinderella, Elmo, Strawberry Shortcake. My friends call me Betty Crocker. When my daughter got married, she had a bridal shower where the guests were asked to write something on an apron. My best friend told her if she needed a recipe or help in the kitchen to ask her mother. If she needed a good place to eat out, ask her.
My cooking tragedies
A 4 tier huge wedding cake that fell apart at 2:00am. Thankfully, I still had time to salvage the cake.
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