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Ready meals for the elderly - what's on the menu?

Ready meals for elderly - what’s on the menu?
When your parent can no longer cook for themself it’s difficult to know what options are available to cater for their nutritional needs and specific tastes. Aside from cooking up portions yourself to fill your parent’s freezer or buying an assortment of supermarket ready-meals for them to sample, how can you ensure that your parent isn’t going hungry?

So thats why the team at When They Get Older created Joseph Pip - a home delivery frozen ready-meals service.

This service could be an ideal choice for a parent who finds that cooking for one just isn’t fun or are suddenly faced with cooking for themself for the first time. Finding the right menu for your parent is down to trial and error if you can’t get personal recommendations. Many suppliers offer similar meals but they may vary dramatically in taste. It’s a good idea to try some yourself before suggesting the idea to your parent. Even then, it’s worth remembering that with age many people lose some of their sense of taste, and find chewing more difficult.

Wiltshire Farm Foods, apetito, and WRVS are just a few other meals delivery services that could provide food for your parent.

In order to make the right choice for your parent explore all the options together. If they’re involved in the decision they’re far more likely to enjoy the food their given. If it’s not appetising it won’t get eaten and if your parent doesn’t eat enough they may be more susceptible to illness. Thinking through the options now will prepare you for the time when your parent might lose interest in cooking for themselves and may relish the thought of ready-meals delivered to their door.

With any meals delivery service be aware of the costs. The cost could be an indicator of the quality of food but factors like delivery charges and grocery options will also add to the overall price. Suppliers who offer an additional grocery service are great if your parent still enjoys fresh fruit and veg as their meal and groceries can be conveniently delivered together. Make sure that the service you choose delivers during holiday periods such as Bank holidays, Easter and Christmas otherwise your parent will be home alone and hungry!

Council-funded services

apetito works alongside Wiltshire Farm Foods with local councils to provide hot and frozen dishes for elderly members of the community. Most county councils provide an assessment service to determine your parent’s eligibility for hot or frozen meals delivery. In some cases the council can even loan your parent a microwave or freezer if they don’t have one. If they’ve been assessed as needing a hot meal or tea time meal, the cost will be subsidised. Arrange an assessment for your parent by contacting your nearest local authority.

Commercial firms

Wiltshire Farm Foods offers a vast range of seasonal frozen meals, snacks and desserts all of which can be tailored towards your parents likes and dislikes as well as dietary requirements.

apetito also privately provides hot meals for elderly customers as part of their meals on wheels delivery service. If your parent has been assessed as only needing frozen meals when in fact you believe they would benefit from a hot meal every day you can request a brochure and order food for your parent independently.

Charity-based services

WRVS delivers both hot and frozen meals as part of their “Practical support at home” scheme to help the elderly remain independent in their own homes. This service is charged for. As well as meals delivery WRVS also offers a variety of free social and luncheon clubs that your parent may be able to attend on a regular basis. To find out more about the clubs and delivery services in your parent’s area visit the WRVS Homepage and enter your parent’s postcode into their “Local services” search tool.

Going out

Many county councils offer meals at day centres. There is a small charge for this service and your parent will have to be assessed in order to be eligible to attend the nearest centre. Search your parent’s local council website for day centres in their area or call the council’s social care department directly as day centres aren’t available in every county.

Buying in

Ready meals from supermarkets vary in quality and range. They’re usually a cheaper option and in an emergency it’s useful to have a few stacked in your parent’s freezer. Portion sizes are small, but that might actually suit a parent whose appetite is smaller and who is not burning many calories.

Although more time-consuming than pre-made freezer meals, home-cooked meals frozen into individual portions can provide a more enjoyable source of nutrition for your parent. You know from long experience which meals will appeal to your parent most.

It’s a good idea to keep tinned foods on hand as well. Soups are easy to heat for a light meal, as are meals like macaroni cheese, pilchards, or beans and sausages. The smaller tins if you can get them are best, and bear in mind the difficulty your parent may have in opening them.

Vegetarian choices

Tina Fox, Vegetarian for Life Company Secretary, remarks that whilst many suppliers provide vegetarian options there needs to be an increase in the range they offer. She believes that an older vegetarian living on home meals services would have little variety in their diet and she fears they may become bored with what’s offered them. Tina feels that although there are organisations like Vegetarian for Life, and many food producers, out there not enough is being done to provide nutritious and tasty vegetarian meals. Suppliers seem to forget that when people get older and meat is more difficult to digest many non-vegetarians will opt for vegetarian dishes.

Tina’s top 3 tips on catering for elderly vegetarians:

  1. Don’t rely too much on cheese or eggs. Pulses, quorn and tofu are all great sources of protein with less of the health problems associated with cheese etc.
  2. Many vegetarian dishes such as pies, cottage pies and nut roasts freeze well. Double up the quantity and freeze portions for your parent to save for later.
  3. Many suppliers and supermarkets believe that all vegetarians like butternut squash and vegetable lasagne – we don’t! Personal taste is very important for older people who are often too polite to say they don’t like something and so it goes to waste.

Vegetarian for Life provides a free guide on Catering for older vegetarians which includes recipes and advice to ensure that your parent is eating the right foods to make them happy and keep their bodies healthy.

We hope you find these different ideas and options useful. Please let us know if you’ve had success with other avenues or suppliers that we haven’t mentioned here. Let us know with a comment below.

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