By Edward Bauman, M.Ed, Ph.D.
When I get older, losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine?
Birthday greeting, bottle of wine
If I stay out till quarter to three
Will you bar the door?
Will you still need me?
Will you still feed me?
When I’m sixty-four
Each of us is growing older day-by-day; some healthfully, some not so well. Baby boomers are finding their children grown and taking care of mom and dad is their latest responsibility. Aging parents can require much the same level of care as young children.
Paul McCartney (The Beatles) was 25 years old when he wrote this song. Today, he is 69 and is aging gracefully. To help families meet the task nutritionally, I wrote a new verse to the tune of the Beetle song above. Try singing along with me.
Eating your flax
Keeps you regular
You can have a smoothie nearly every day
With green powder, berries, and whey
Forget the coffee, it’s time for tea
You’ll be feeling free
Yes, I still need you and I will feed you
When you’re eighty-four
My definition of nutrition is the care and feeding of an organism. As adult children, it’s time for us to show up for our parents who nursed us along as infants and did what they could to provide for us setting the stage for us to grow into the people we are today. Now, the roles they are a changing. We need to care for them.
What To Do with Aging Parents
- Accept the aging process?
- Identify needs: theirs and yours?
- Inventory what you have to give?
- Appreciate the role reversal?
- Build a support network?
- Mend fences?
- Honor your commitments?
- Make sure they are optimally nourished?
Let’s use an 84-year-old male parent, (let’s call him Pop) as an example. Clearly, he is not as sharp as he was in his youth or middle age. We see fading senses, loss of coordination, cognitive decline and signs of dementia, extreme fatigue, depression, increasing resistance and rigidity, diminished social contacts, fear of life and death, and a tragic loss of self-esteem. Metabolically, pop has diminished appetite, digestion, absorption, muscle mass, bone density, endocrine output, immune capability and cellular energy production. Along with this, Pop has numerous complaints, medications, pain, insomnia, frailty, doctor visits, crisis episodes, financial worries, and irrationality. How can an adult child manage all of this and not be overwhelmed in the process? It certainly is not easy for anyone.
Lifestyles for Healthy Aging
If a parent is in his 80s, then the child is likely to be in his or her 50s, give or take a few years. At this point in the child’s life, it is high time to jump start a daily, proactive, healthy living program that includes being.
- Physically active
- Mentally active
- Emotionally active
- Spiritually active
- Socially Active
- Nutritionally Active
Health is not a spectator sport. Far too many people expect western medicine to manage their chronic, degenerative health conditions with medication and surgery. To their dismay, they find it is largely up to them to regain their vitality and well-being that has been compromised by injury, illness, treatment, and time. This is true for both the adult child and aging parent. Nutrition is the first key to recovery and rejuvenation. A lifetime of eating poor to mediocre foods has contributed to the incidence of apathy, low energy, and a passive approach to personal healing as well as setting the table for disease to manifest.
Eating for Health
The Eating for Health model provides a map of what to eat on a daily basis to provide optimal nutrition. As aging parents become ill, they rarely have the opportunity to eat fresh, local, seasonal, organic foods that are prepared to accommodate their needs for foods that are easy to chew and swallow. Bauman College: Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts program trains natural chefs to work with families with aging parents to prepare appropriate meals in the home or brought into care facilities to not only control illnesses such as diabetes or cancer, but to cater to the ethnicity and pleasure of the clients by preparing the food with love and presenting it with respect and beauty. All too often, our parents die of mal-nutrition and a lack of love before they succumb to pneumonia, heart or kidney failure.
It is vital for the family to work with a clinical nutritionist and medical provider to properly assess metabolic and nutritional needs. Research is replete with citations of corrective nutrition to slow the onset and progression of loss of brain and body function. A breakfast smoothie (refer to the song above), consisting of whey, flax, green powder, and berries, can also include yogurt, coconut, fish oil, l-glutamine, acidophilus, and vitamin C. This is far more nourishing than a can of Ensure prescribed by doctors to protect against mal-nutrition. Other corrective nutrients can diminish pain, suffering, depression, and cognitive decline. These may include digestive enzymes, antioxidants, zinc, magnesium, calcium, chromium, selenium, Lipoic acid, and coenzyme Q-10. GlyceroPhosphoCholine (GPC) has been used to build cell membranes and improve mental performance of patients afflicted from stroke or brain injury. Drug-drug and drug-nutrient interactions need to be closely monitored for obvious reasons.
It’s high time we shifted away from neglecting and over-medicating our elders, shunting them off to nursing homes with limited care and poor quality food. Our parents are our link with the past and a preview of how we might be as we age. It’s never too late to show up for our parents to advocate for them to receive the best of natural and conventional care. When we commit to nourishing our aging parents, we will notice a profound shift in caring for our self and our extended family. Blessings and love to all.