By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Ask Dr. Marion

QUESTION: My 82 year-old mother was always a great cook, but she isn't able to make most of her own meals anymore. How can I still make food fun for her? Kristine in North Carolina, 55

ANSWER: Food is one of the few remaining varieties in your elder's life. It might be more important to them now than ever before, so fill the house with food they like, as long as it's approved by their doctor. Consider your elder's likes and dislikes and shape their diet accordingly. It sounds obvious, but many elderly are forced to gulp down pre-fab liquid drinks and hard-to-handle food, and many do not get anything resembling balanced meals. Find out if Meals-On-Wheels is available in your town, and ask if your elder would like to receive it. Remember that they might not want to consume it if they've enjoyed a lifetime of home-cooked foods.

Find their favorite cookbook and go to the dirtiest pages - that's where their favorite recipes are. Prepare it for them. Plan a diet and eating routine that allows your elder to feed themselves as often as possible. You also have to make eating elder-friendly. If they've lost some manual dexterity, encourage finger foods, smaller portions, and use non-breakable plates. Be sure your elder gets the right amount of calories for their age, height, and weight. Keep food fresh and interesting for them, and make sure they're eating regularly. Many elderly lose interest in food and just don't eat enough. Always be sure to check with your elder's doctor for proper nutritional details.

Also, investigate if there are local restaurants and/or grocery stores that will deliver to your elder's residence. You can set up a tab ahead of time. Your elder might really enjoy a knock at the door and a different hot lunch and dinner delivered every day.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.