Tips for baby boomers to help keep aging parents healthy

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Staying healthy can be so easy. Our kids don’t even work at it; we do and absent other challenges, we usually succeed. For our parents though? That’s another story. Kate Forgach is a Baby Boomer consumer specialist and in that role, has some advice about keeping our own parents’ refrigerators well and properly stocked.

Do you ever feel like you’re a PB&J on whole wheat, sandwiched between growing children and aging parents? It’s an exhausting time of life for many of us just trying to do the best job we can.

Kate Forgach

As a former professional caregiver I saw many Boomers struggling with this dilemma. Happily, I was able to reduce their burden…a skill I later greatly appreciated when my husband fell terminally ill.

Often, when I started with a new client, I found client fridges stuffed with rapidly deteriorating foods that were more of an appetite suppressant than dietary temptation. A 2010 research study by the Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland actually reveals that a properly stocked refrigerator can make a major difference in an ill parent’s health.

According to the report published in the British medical journal The Lancet, inadequate refrigerator contents often lead to hospital admission, or readmission. On the other hand, only eight percent of study participants with well-stocked fridges ended up back in the hospital.

So how do you ensure that your aging parent is getting the best diet, without supervising every bite? During my time on the job, I learned a few tricks of the trade that might help you out. Here are several items that should be refrigerator staples.

  1. Protein Shakes - Ensure is the best-known; the name is almost generic. But if your parent doesn’t care for the taste of Ensure, there are many other protein shakes available in most supermarkets. Make sure you first check for excessive salt or sugar.
  2. Single-serving Fruits - This can mean anything from small containers of applesauce to juice boxes.
  3. Chicken Soup - Sure, we already know it’s good for the soul, but chicken soup is also a great hot meal and is now available in small, microwavable servings.
  4. Cottage Cheese - Mix this calcium-rich food with fruit, cucumbers, avocados… whatever will tempt your parent. Just premix and pop into the fridge.
  5. Jell-O - When all else fails, there’s always room for Jell-O. Sure it’s high in sugar content, but Jell-O is also easy on the stomach and may whet the appetite for healthier foods.
  6. Bottled Water - Age dulls our desire for liquids, but water is still a necessity for good health. Fill several smaller bottles and stick them in the fridge. Sensitive stomachs may prefer water at room temperature.

Kate Forgach is a Baby Boomer consumer specialist for FreeShipping.org. As an Extension specialist and journalist, Kate wrote for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. She has been featured in USA Today, Detroit News, New Yorker magazine, TIME Moneyland, “ABC World News,” NBC’s “TODAY” show and many other media outlets.

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