It can be challenging to have to take care of your parents as they grow older, especially when they have health problems that limit mobility. If you have kids of your own, it can be even tougher.
Here are three essential tips to keep your aging parents healthy (and your kids happy) without driving yourself crazy.
1. Establish base recipes you can alter after cooking
If you have kids and parents to take care of, you’re probably spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Fast food can be quick and easy for your schedule, but it’s not so good for anyone’s body.
Each person has individual nutritional needs, and it can sometimes be difficult to prepare dishes that everyone will eat. Chicken is a good source of protein, but some kids won’t touch it unless it comes as breaded chunks from a package labeled “nuggets.”
Your older parents might love chicken, but may have a hard time chewing it. Even vegetables can be a challenge. Some people love onions, others can’t stand them and would rather go hungry than pick them out.
Some diners love raw tomatoes but won’t eat them cooked. Then there are food allergies that are all too common today.
Is it possible to prepare meals for your family without spending day and night with a frying pan in your hand, cooking 10 different meals? Absolutely!
A great way to address this challenge is to devise a handful of base recipes that you can cook in large batches, and add other ingredients to each serving to complete the meal. It’s similar to batch cooking, but instead of making completed dishes, you’re leaving out at least some of the toppings and empowering people to customize their own dish.
For example, you could cook up a batch of rainbow quinoa, and make a base salad by adding only the ingredients that everyone would agree on. Those might include olive oil, salt, pepper, and mushrooms.
Then you can provide a self-serve station that has other fresh veggies such as broccoli, onion, green onion, olives, tomatoes, and roasted red peppers. The only thing you need to do is cook the quinoa and cut up the vegetables.
You can also supply sauces like salsa, spicy guacamole sauce, pesto, coconut curry, and even alfredo sauce to add a new flavor every time.
Bonus tip: Make nutrient-dense green smoothies for breakfast, and blend in whole-food vitamins and minerals so there are fewer capsules to swallow. This is the best way to make sure your parents get their essential vitamins and minerals.
2. Don’t assume arthritis is a limitation to exercise
You might be inclined to believe a person with arthritis can’t exercise without experiencing pain or doing damage to the body, but that’s not always the case. Arthritis presents a challenge to exercise the way most people do and requires modifications, but people with arthritis need to stay active in order to be functionally independent.
The idea of exercising with arthritis can be intimidating, especially when the arthritis is in the knees or hips, since those are major body parts we rely on to move our body. Although federal guidelines recommend arthritis patients engage in 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, only 10% of them actually do.
So the Arthritis Care & Research Journal published a study in 2017 that examined the type and intensity of exercise that older adults require to stay functional. The study found that a recommendation of 150 minutes per week was operating as a huge barrier to people’s willingness to even try exercise.
By altering the recommendation to just 45 minutes per week, experts encouraged more people to participate, and those who did experienced an 80% increase in improved functionality. Dorothy Dunlop, professor of rheumatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said, “even a little activity is better than none.”
If your parents have other ailments that limit their mobility, you can find seated exercises on YouTube that will help them. Plenty of exercises are designed for people with limited mobility. Just make sure they consult their doctor before starting any exercise program.
3. Get the kids involved in exercising
Kids love to do whatever the adults are doing, especially if you tell them it’s for grownups. You can get your kids involved in some indoor exercise with your parents when make it fun for everyone.
If your kids enjoy teaching others, have them learn the exercises and teach them to your parents (even if they already know how to do them). Your kids will enjoy the activity, and your parents will appreciate the company.
As your parents get older, you’ll want the best for them, just as you do for your own kids. Don’t be afraid to get them up and moving, even if they have arthritis or other mobility challenges, to maintain and strengthen their health.