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Health Benefits of Thanksgiving for Seniors

thanksgiving for seniors home caregiving

Thanksgiving is a time to spend with family and friends and to give thanks for all the good things in our lives. Thanksgiving also typically comes with a large, potentially unhealthy dinner. If you’re expecting a senior loved one to spend time with you this Thanksgiving, you may want to change your routine and recipes a bit. With proper planning, Thanksgiving dinner can be quite healthy and enjoyable for both seniors and the rest of the family.

1. Healthy Thanksgiving Dinner

The traditional Thanksgiving dinner includes some healthy ingredients your senior loved one can benefit from, although they are often disguised with unhealthy additions. Here are some great ideas on how to have healthier versions of your favorite dishes:

  • Turkey is a great source of protein and contains iron, zinc, potassium, and vitamin B6. Turkey can improve health, boost the immune system, aid in wound healing, help to control blood pressure, and keep the bones strong. Choose roasting instead of frying, and use healthy oils like olive oil.

  • Cranberries are full of vitamins C, E, and K, fiber, and antioxidants. The traditional cranberry sauce, however, contains a lot of sugar. You can replace sugar with honey or coconut sugar.

  • Pumpkin contains fiber, vitamins A and C, and potassium. Replace the sugar in your pumpkin pie recipe with honey or coconut sugar.

  • Sweet potatoes are full of vitamins A and C, manganese, copper, potassium, fiber, and vitamin B6. Sweet potatoes are already naturally sweet, so they don’t need too much added sweetness. Leave the marshmallows off this year, and add just a tiny amount of honey.

  • Potatoes are a good source of nutrients, vitamin C, and copper, and they also keep you fuller for longer. Limit the butter and cream when making mashed potatoes to reduce fat.

  • Green beans are high in fiber, vitamins A, C, K, and B6, folic acid, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and potassium. Just remove the fried onion rings, thick cream, breadcrumbs, or canned cream of mushroom soup from the recipe. Instead, grill green beans and fresh mushrooms with olive oil, add crumbed almonds on top, and season with herbs.

  • Cooking with herbs and spices instead of salt is healthier since salt contains high amounts of sodium.

Following these guidelines will help you cook a healthy Thanksgiving dinner that both your senior loved ones and the rest of the family will enjoy.

2. Spending Time with Family

Thanksgiving is a great time to bond with family, especially with the elderly as you may not be able to see them very often. Seniors have been around for decades, so they often have interesting stories to tell and have an abundance of wisdom to share. Spending time with seniors will benefit them as well as the rest of the family in the following ways:

  • Decreased loneliness

  • Reduced stress levels

  • Greater emotional bonding

  • Lifting spirits

  • Living longer

Do some fun family activities together, like reminiscing over long gone memories around the dinner table or going for a group walk after dinner. The exercise will also help to shed the calories from that extra slice of pie.

3. Health Benefits of Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to thank your family or friends for the contribution they make in your life, as well as pondering on all the other good things in your life.

Here are some examples of the health benefits seniors can receive from being grateful and giving thanks:

  • Reducing stress

  • Enhancing mood

  • Boosting the immune system

  • Improving heart health

  • Improving sleep

  • Increasing mental strength

A Word on Dementia

A senior with dementia may experience Thanksgiving dinner differently from others or from how they experienced it before. Keep these things in mind when planning your Thanksgiving event or dinner:

  • Big gatherings may be confusing to people with dementia. Rather opt for a small family dinner where there are no unfamiliar faces. Alternatively, a home caregiver can help out for the day, making the experience more enjoyable for the senior in your care, as well as the rest of the family.

  • Stick with routines where possible.

  • When having a conversation, focus on old memories instead of new ones. Short term memories are mostly affected. Taking them down memory lane will also make them happy, and you may hear some interesting and funny stories you never did before.

If you need any advice on having a successful Thanksgiving dinner with your senior loved ones, or you need the services of a home caregiver to assist you for the day, please reach out to Alegre Home Care. Our home caregivers love to help seniors and their families on special days or to give out valuable tips, making your day with your senior loved one a day to remember.

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