Monthly Archives: May 2017

Kind Cooking: the art of preparing food for sick people

Are you one of the many people who are looking after someone who is very ill? Perhaps a spouse, sibling, parent or friend? As you well know, it is a highly tiring and difficult task, however much it is undertaken with love.

You may be overloaded with advice, but I’d like to add a few thoughts about food.

Ill People Don’t Feel Like Eating

People who are ill rarely want to eat. Nothing looks good or tastes good and they just pick at whatever you put in front of them. And then they feel tired, have no energy and little chance to enjoy the days, months or, perhaps, years they have remaining

In the course of writing a book about end-of-life care, I interviewed a hospice cook who was devoted to encouraging ill people to eat. If they eat even a little, he said, they will have a much better quality of life.

Instead of sleeping all the time, he noted, they will be able to talk to family and friends – and, when needed, say their goodbyes. There may be unresolved issues and talking is important for laying these to rest. This is altogether better for the ill person and better for those looking after him or her.

Cooking from the Ill Person’s Point of View

The cook, with long experience, had many pointers to suggest. Give the ill person some choice wherever possible, as they will have so few areas in which they can exercise any sense of control.

Don’t overwhelm them with too much food; use small plates and small bowls so that what is offered looks an amount they could cope with. One small piece of meat, one small potato, something green or a small carrot for colour and it can look much more inviting. Herbs can add valuable taste for jaundiced appetites and can offset the effects of medication.

If possible, keep the preparation at a distance, as the smell of cooking can be very off-putting. See if you could borrow a neighbour’s kitchen if you want to cook something that takes time or has a powerful smell. People are often very eager to help.

Eating as a Social Occasion

Finally, the cook stressed the importance of making eating a social occasion. Talking and even laughing over food provides a welcome sense of life and normality. Sit down together and discuss the news of the day or something else of interest. Sometimes, a small amount of alcohol would not go amiss, depending on the drugs the person is on.

He was also keen to get people out of bed wherever possible. A table nearby, even with a tablecloth, can look much more inviting than the tiresome sick bed.

It’s Not Easy

Cooking for people who are very sick is not easy at the best of times. But these ideas provide some ways to make it more palatable for the patient and more satisfying for the cook.

This was originally published by SixtyandMe (see http://sixtyandme.com/kind-cooking-the-art-of-preparing-food-for-sick-people/)

How Hospice Care Can Help Meet a Patient’s End of Life Wishes

Have you ever spent time with someone in their last days? Was it intimate, peaceful and special – or was it full of intrusive hospital equipment, harried nurses, physical pain and no chance to talk?

We are all affected when someone we love is close to death. I am sure we all hope for a time of tranquility and the chance to say a meaningful goodbye. And, it goes without saying, a time that is pain-free. The concept of a “good death” is not an empty one. The question is how to achieve it. Can hospice care help?

Life in Hospice Care

It was my privilege some years ago to interview a number of nurses, doctors and other staff working in two hospices in England. From what they told me, outside of the family home, I could not imagine a better place for one’s last days. Everyone seemed full of compassion, but also thoughtfulness about the needs of the people there, both those who were dying and their relatives and friends.

 Attention to Needs

It is difficult to do justice in a few words to the breadth of attentiveness in a hospice. As described in much more detail on my website, it is not the big things that one remembers, but the little touches that make all the difference.

In my book, I introduce different patients, like the woman who didn’t want a bath at the normal time and was allowed to bathe at the time of her choosing. Or the family member who needed a sandwich to enable her to stay at the bedside and how it was provided. Or the patient who simply needed a cuddle.

I met a hospice cook who spent considerable time thinking about how to encourage people to eat. He said if they ate, they would be alert enough to say goodbye to their friends and family. He studied the impact of drugs on the taste of food and learned how to counteract this.

A choice of food was always offered. He encouraged people to get out of bed to eat, if at all possible, so they could have a sense of occasion with their friends or family.

Each person – whether a nursing assistant or chaplain or doctor – looked out for patients’ needs in all sorts of ways. This might be the need to talk about the past or simply to sit in silence with someone holding their hand.

Sometimes, some action was called for, such as an elderly woman who wanted to write to her grandchild, but needed a slight reminder to do so sooner rather than later. The stories go on and on.

Hospice Care Offers a Choice in Death

No one chooses to die, of course, but hospices do what they can to allow people to die in the way they want. Perhaps most memorable for me was the man who asked to die under a tree and was duly taken outside to do so when his time had come.

Some people wanted music and others wanted family with them. Some appeared to want to be alone. A Muslim man asked that his bed be turned so that his head was facing east. Every effort was made to respond to these wishes.

We don’t like thinking about these things, but we all know we should. Many people want to die at home, but end up in a busy hospital. There is a need to think about what you – or your family – would want, so it can be planned for.

 

This was originally published by Sixtyandme (see http://sixtyandme.com/how-hospice-care-can-help-meet-a-patients-end-of-life-wishes/)