Let Them Eat Cake. Or Candy.

I have a few senior friends caring for elderly parents. At our stage in life, this is a challenging task. I’ve noticed that some are extremely strict about their mother or father’s diet—to the point of militant. I know they are doing it to keep their loved one alive and healthy, but are they keeping them happy?

The other day, a friend told me about someone she knows that’s caring for her 100+ mother. She dutifully ensures her mom drinks at least 60 ounces of water daily and eats a healthy, balanced diet. But when it comes to the goodies her mother craves, it’s a big “No.” Why? Does she think denying her mother’s sweet tooth will prolong the centenarian’s life?  

When my mother-in-law was in her later eighties, the only “food” she wanted was candy. Jackie had emphysema, and her taste buds were shot from old age and a lifetime of smoking. She had no social activities at that point, and life was no fun, but she could still taste (and enjoy) sweets. I would bring her See’s Candy and Godiva chocolates, but in her last years, she reverted to childhood favorites, like Raisinets, Snickers, and jellybeans. I think they evoked happy memories—as certain songs or aromas do.

I have another dear friend whose father just passed. He loved cinnamon rolls, so she gave her dear dad a cinnamon roll every day. And then one day, very recently, he didn’t want it, and she knew he was ready to let go. Her dad was ninety, had cancer, and had suffered several heart attacks. No way was she going to deny him his one tasty pleasure. It made him happy.

Here’s the thing

In North America, a woman’s average life expectancy hovers between 80 and 83 years of age, depending on where she lives and other factors. A man can expect to live between 75 and 78 years of age. So what harm is there in letting our older folks enjoy the foods they crave? I’m not saying to forsake a healthy diet, but please do not deny them their joy! Our elderly loved ones have likely suffered many hard times and losses as they’ve aged. Letting them indulge in the foods they love can help improve their quality of life.

Like most older people, I fear losing my independence and freedom of choice in the not-too-distant future. I’m not a candy eater (yet), but I do love homemade cake, fruit pies, and potato chips. I hope my children do not go militant on me in the future and take away my Ruffles.

As I type this, there’s a Costco-size bag of Ruffles in the pantry and a slice of our secret family recipe cranberry pie in the freezer calling my name. That pie is why I married Mike forty-six years ago–it was the only way I could get that darn recipe! Thank goodness I don’t have any well-meaning kids that have padlocked the freezer!

One more thing

Ten years ago, my husband battled stage four throat cancer. The poor guy had a stomach tube I pumped nutrients and meds through several times a day. Plus, weekly chemo and daily radiation that destroyed his taste buds, So now, the only food he truly enjoys are sweets.

But he survived, still works at our restaurants (not developing new pizzas, though ), plays golf a few times a week, and indulges his sweet tooth daily. He was close to death ten years ago, so am I going to deny him his one tasty pleasure? Heck no! I let him eat cake!

FYI: I wrote the first book in my series while caring for him.


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