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Cooking for family with terminally ill member

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
I am about to bounce up against an interesting situation, and could use the help of the collective brain trust here on Chef Talk…

A neighbor is going to die.

He has advanced melanoma, and the doctors estimate that he “might” make it to Christmas. I believe that he’s finished with chemo and radiation treatments at this time.

Needless to say, his family (wife – early 40’s, kids 15, 12, 10) are sort of shell shocked, and will need some looking after.

We’ve offered to prepare them some meals, and could use some suggestions from folks who’ve dealt with this sort of thing on what might be the most palatable (and digestible/retainable) types of food for someone who’s going through terminal melanoma.

I’ve asked for any particular likes (or more to the point, dislikes) of food, and will work around these preferences.

My wife and I have both dealt with taking care of ailing parents, and know how debilitating and tiring that can be. We want to make sure that there’s a mechanism in place for this family to have nutritious meals available when mom is just too wrung out to do more than throw something in the microwave.

Anyway, if you have some guidance that you’d like to share, I’m all ears (or eyes…)

If it helps them keep their strength up for the difficult times ahead, then we’ve done what we feel we need to do. And with your help, I believe that this is an achievable goal.

Thanks.
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
Reply
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
Reply
post #2 of 18
Do a meal where the kids can help. it might take their minds off of the terrible situation ,at least for a little time. You could do pizza,assemble your own tacos. mybe ever give the kids some kooking lessons.
post #3 of 18
Thread Starter 
Interesting concept, Insider!!
That could also serve another objective of taking the kids for an afternoon, to allow Mom & Dad some quiet time together.
Plus they could make a portion of the dinner specifically for their Dad, should he require any special considerations in the preparation...
Good idea.
Thanks!
Need to look into some smaller (one-two serving sized) pyrex casserole type dishes...
And aprons for each new "cook".
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
Reply
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
Reply
post #4 of 18
D,

I might be able to offer a perspective on this give a current situation.

It has always been our experience with something like this to provide things that are universally accepted. Nothing needs to be fancy in nature but every now and then an occasional "special thing" is quite acceptable.


Pastas, casseroles, pasta casseroles, stews, meat loaf, salads, etc.....

Just think comfort foods. Something that might also work is approach them and probe for their favorites. Then depending how many there are vs. the number of people and the nights you will provide.....They all get something they enjoy and they feel better too.
post #5 of 18
the person who is sick , their needs will change from day to day depending on how they are feeling,, small servings of things they like, on a regular basis, as their needs change they may not feel like food, so things that are easily digestable and dont take much energy, things with lots of flavour but not neccessarily spicy or salty , but in small quantities,(when a person is ill big size portions can be quite off putting)
i make a really lovely potato soup which is so comforting and very nourishing for them , its a very simple soup t ha you can add other things to to m ake it more interesting or nutricious,,purreed soups,small amounts of very tender meat dishes, egg dishes are a good standby as they are soft and gentle. We used to make dad vanilla milkshakes when he couldnt cope with the thought of food

for the family as old school suggested scope out their favourite foods , make them things they can just heat and eat with out too much thinking,
also baking always goes down well , maybe a batch of cookies, or some pancakes, or muffins etc ,
great for the kiddliwinks and maybe also things that can be eaten on the run so if they have hospital visits, or food for thekids to take to school
so maybe things like meat loaf, chicken drumsticks, picnic style foods, soups that can be drunk out of a cup,
good luck with it and there is a wealth of knowledge here on this wonderful site so dont hesitate to ask questions
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
Reply
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
Reply
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the ideas, "Oldie" and Tessa.

Casseroles are easy to prepare, freeze well, and are usually well received.

We have a few that we make up, and from the tastes that I've offered from my "left-over-for-lunches", they are considered edible enough to the point of me having to shoo the "taste-testers" away from my noonday meal at the office.

Our home made vegetable soup is one of the favorites, plus we do a pretty subtle potato soup.

I've had requests for meatloaf sandwiches from co-workers (word has gotten around) , so the meatloaf and the soups will go into the "menu" as well.

We delivered a couple of dozen cookies today (they'll go quickly with five in the house), so that's a start.

Completely forgot about the eggs. I remember vanilla milkshakes with a raw egg tossed in for "nourishment", but I wonder if the current panic about raw foodstuffs makes that a "no-no"...

Running food (grab & go) is a good thought, but I'll need to look for something that will keep a while (three days?) in the fridge. School is now in session here, and Mom is a school teacher, so help in that regard is appreciated.

I usually don't have this much difficulty in putting food/menus together, but maybe the magnitude of the unknowns is playing a larger part in my mental conundrum than I anticipated.

Oh. During our nightly discussion period in the pool, SWAMBO (She Who Always Must Be Obeyed) has authorized the acquisition of a FoodSaver appliance for the storage freezing and transport of meals.

Tools = good. Ask any engineer... :)
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
Reply
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
Reply
post #7 of 18
if you make a sabayon with the egg yolks (bring the egg yolks up to 60 degrees celcius) then that will make them thick , that should be ok
some other ideas milkshake wise are
freeze some bananas in individual portions, add a frozen banana to a glass of milk
add a little honey and some cinnamon if wished and whiz , it goes nice and thick and very nourishing
or cut half an avocado add it to a glass of orange juice and whiz
or use icecream or thick yoghurt or even a spoonful of marscapone in the milkshake, gives it extra nutrients and makes it more creamy and easy to drink
or cook up some rice pudding with creme anglaise , then add a few spoonfuls (when its cold) to a glass of milk and whiz that up , it makes it nice and thick and easy to swallow but full of nutrients
you could also add some finely ground nuts to help give it abit more body

for lunch on the run ideas, cook up some chicken or beef and make some different things like wraps, pizza wedges, cold cuts with bits of raw veges and crackers
they all keep well in the fridge for a few days, also things like quiches, savoury tarts, pasties, savoury muffins etc , sing out if you want recipes.
I think its lovely your looking after this family, dont forget to look afteryouselves as well (hugs)
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
Reply
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
Reply
post #8 of 18
Do be careful with raw uncooked egg as an ingredient. His immune system is most likely compromised, leaving infection a constant threat.

There are protein powders that can be added to shakes. They are really helpful, but often not very palatable and have to be used in small quantities or disguised with flavors such as chocolate.

Most patients do not like strong smells at this stage in life. Often nausea is a frequent visitor and strong smells make it more difficult.

If he has trouble swallowing at some point, there are thickener powders that can be stirred into any thin liquid to reduce the chance of choking. Just a small amount of thickening is usually sufficient. Too much changes the feel of familiar liquids and reduces their appeal.

Terminally ill people nearly always have a loss of appetite. This is simply a part of the dying process. It is not painful, nor is it disturbing to the patient. It is usually disturbing to family and friends until they understand the process. We are hard wired to help people get well. Often a tiny taste of a particular food is all that is wanted, but is very appreciated.

When my FIL was terminally ill, he was upset that he no longer had the strength to make chocolate chip cookies for all of his friends and family. One day his friends got together at his home and spent the afternoon making cookies and visiting with him and each other. They made certain to have enough cookies to freeze and to fill his cookie jar. Once again, he could offer cookies to visitors. That day was full of memories in the making.

Caretakers are stressed and pushed to their limit during this experience. Leaving food that can easily be heated over several days is a good idea. My son made a huge pot of potato leek soup that was greatly appreciated. When caring for a terminally ill person, caretakers usually don't take very good care of themselves and often don't even think to pull a dish out of the freezer to heat in the microwave. It's nice when a friend or neighbor shows up with a hot dish and maybe a salad, dishes up the food, hands a plate to the caretaker and takes their leave, coming back to clean up at a later time.

You are a good friend and neighbor. Be consistent and unobtrusive. Don't peter out near the end when you will be most needed.

The ideas posted about having the kids over to make food, especially a sun dish like pizza, are excellent. They need distraction and the parents need some quiet time.
post #9 of 18
Do be careful with raw uncooked egg as an ingredient. His immune system is most likely compromised, leaving infection a constant threat.

There are protein powders that can be added to shakes. They are really helpful, but often not very palatable and have to be used in small quantities or disguised with flavors such as chocolate.

Most patients do not like strong smells at this stage in life. Often nausea is a frequent visitor and strong smells make it more difficult.

If he has trouble swallowing at some point, there are thickener powders that can be stirred into any thin liquid to reduce the chance of choking. Just a small amount of thickening is usually sufficient. Too much changes the feel of familiar liquids and reduces their appeal.

Terminally ill people nearly always have a loss of appetite. This is simply a part of the dying process. It is not painful, nor is it disturbing to the patient. It is usually disturbing to family and friends until they understand the process. We are hard wired to help people get well. Often a tiny taste of a particular food is all that is wanted, but is very appreciated.

When my FIL was terminally ill, he was upset that he no longer had the strength to make chocolate chip cookies for all of his friends and family. One day his friends got together at his home and spent the afternoon making cookies and visiting with him and each other. They made certain to have enough cookies to freeze and to fill his cookie jar. Once again, he could offer cookies to visitors. That day was full of memories in the making.

Caretakers are stressed and pushed to their limit during this experience. Leaving food that can easily be heated over several days is a good idea. My son made a huge pot of potato leek soup that was greatly appreciated. When caring for a terminally ill person, caretakers usually don't take very good care of themselves and often don't even think to pull a dish out of the freezer to heat in the microwave. It's nice when a friend or neighbor shows up with a hot dish and maybe a salad, dishes up the food, hands a plate to the caretaker and takes their leave, coming back to clean up at a later time.

You are a good friend and neighbor. Be consistent and unobtrusive. Don't peter out near the end when you will be most needed.

The ideas posted about having the kids over to make food, especially a sun dish like pizza, are excellent. They need distraction and the parents need some quiet time.
post #10 of 18
Sorry for the double post!
post #11 of 18
about the egg , thats why i suggested cooking it lightly :o we are so lucky in nz that we dont have that kind of prob with our eggs
and yeah those memories that can be created whilst the ill person can manage and is still alive are such good things and they are the ones that last the longest too in the minds of the living later on
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
Reply
when life hands you lemons, make lemon gelee, lemon meringue pie, or any other dessert your heart desires

www.theunknownchef.com
www.theunknownchef.co.nz
www.shoebridge.co.nz
Reply
post #12 of 18
Taco meat and sloppy joe meat frozen in a foodsaver bag then sealed can be dropped in a pot of boiling water for a low energy meal. Both keep 2-3 days in the fridge also. Soups are always good and fall is coming up soon. How about having all the kids over for burgers and dogs on the grill? That would give the parents a break and some games could be set up for the kids to play (croquet, horseshoes, etc.). One of my comfort food standbys is a simple roast beef with carrots and potatoes roasted in the same pan. Would be easy to transport next door since it is all in one pan. You could make gravy from the drippings and bring that in a thermos.
post #13 of 18
The gift you are giving is generous. I brought food to my grandmother while she was taking care of her mother. Cooking was a dreadful chore at this point and I was chef at a nice place so it was easy for me to bring them food on my break. On my day off I'd bring them whatever I made at home. Mainly comfort food. Although she loved the occasional fried shrimp or BBQ pork ribs. She was 98 so we gave her whatever the heck she wanted. I was only feeding two so it was easy.

All the suggestions have been great. Some easy things I'd do would be a chili or stew and big pan of cornbread. Beans and rice. Spaghetti. A baked zitti would be easy. Some noodles, sauce, and cheese. Macaroni and cheese with ham or weenies and melt cheese on it. BBQ beef or pork on buns. It's going to be about making the kids happy at this point. Give him what he wants but you're feeding the family so mom doesn't have to.

Good luck and stay strong yourself.
post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
You've all given me some very good food for thought. Thank you.

My plan at this point is to contine to absorb ideas, and layout a sort of "shopping list/menu" of soups, entrees, casseroles, and sides for them to go over, and check off what sounds good.

Your ideas have helped me to get this a bit more organized from my end.
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
Reply
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
Reply
post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 
As a update to this saga, here's where we are so far...

Just after the last post, out of state family members started coming into town to say their "goodbyes" to "T", and the household was pretty full for a few weeks.

They all seemed to be taking care of things so we just sort of waited until things calmed down a bit.

Shortly thereafter, "T" was taken to the hospital to get some help with pain management, and stayed there for a few weeks, until the medicos suggested he be placed in hospice. It seems that the cancer had spread quite a bit, metatstasizing to the brain, and eventually causing paralysis of his legs.

During this time, we began bringing over dinner once a week ("B" commented that there were only three nights a week where she could use some help), for "B" and the three kids.

As a side not to all this, the reason I refer to the effort from this end as "we", is that SWAMBO has taken a large portion of this effort upon herself, and pretty much relegated me to the minor role of "helper". Do the 'easy' stuff, nothing complicated, hold this, stir that, heat this for 'X' minutes and then mix with that other stuff, and DON'T YOU DARE MESS UP *MY* KITCHEN!!!!

I learn quickly for an old guy...

As far as menu planning for "B" and the kids, when I asked what they would prefer, the response was, "Anything sounds just fine."

Since the immediate family was spending a large portion of their "free" time over at the hospice facility, this seemed to work pretty well, and most of the meals have been simply things like stew, baked chicken breasts & vegetables, spaghetti, baked porkchops & veggies, and other simple home style meals. Things that resonate with their midwest origins, and nothing too rowdy...

Last night was meatloaf, baked potatoes and some green beans. Nothing exotic, just basic food that is easy to recognize, and generally palatable.

As it turned out, "T" had been brought home just two hours before I showed up with the food, and it struck me that doing this does matter. "B" was a bit overwhelmed with the rack of meds that needed to be sorted and eventually administered, getting things around the house organized to accomodate a hospital bed in the middle of the family room, and all the mental flailing about the one does when confronted by a whole new paradigm of how things go topsy turvy in nano-seconds.

It was nice to see the relief in her eyes that she wouldn't have to deal with preparing a meal in all that chaos...

Even though he is on significant pain meds and just sort of "there", "T" recognized me right away, and when he heard that dinner was on the counter, he noticeably brightened, if only for a few minutes.

I'll be checking back witrh "B" to see what sort of dietary 'adjustments' we need to make for "T".

There's no telling how long things will go on, but thanks for the encouragement I got here on Chef Talk, and via back channel. It helped solidify my feelings that somebody needed to do something to make life a little easier for a family in a rough situation.

Now that "B's" time is further taken up with in home care, we'll be trying to fill in the other days of the week where she needs help.

It strikes me as the right thing to do...

Thanks again for all your suggestions and help. I'll be reviewing everything again, now that it seems that we're nearing the "home stretch".
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
Reply
I might be suffering from CDO.
It is just like OCD, except the letters are in alphabetical order.
Just as they should be...
Reply
post #16 of 18
Vegetable Beef Soup.....was always what we sent along to people in need. Individual portions can be scooped and heated, plenty of veg which are sometimes neglected in rough times, comfort food at it's best.....warm rolls, baked apples.....
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #17 of 18
First, let me express my heartfelt compassion for this family's situation. What they are going through is incredibly difficult. Sadly, it will not be 'over' after the inevitable happens. The person who has been the center of their lives and activities for the past few months will suddenly no longer be there. And what has been happening outside their circle during this time is that life has gone on as usual. Unless the kids have formed strong friendships, they may have some difficulty re-integrating into their social lives. Some of their friends may feel uncomfortable, not knowing what to say (or often..what to not say). Life does not get "back to normal" very quickly. It is a long and painful process, where sometimes even the simplest of things can bring up overwhelming feelings of grief, lonliness, abandonment. There is also the feeling of relief that it's over, that 'T' is no longer suffering, and normally, this is accompianied by a sense of guilt...because it doesn't seem right feel relieved. Because Hospice is now involved, the family needs to know that grief counseling will be available to them for up to 18 months. Good friends and neighbors should encourage them to take advantage of this important service. It's not a bunch of people all sitting around consoling one another or wallowing in grief. Trained, skilled personnel are there to help them face and deal with the many facets of grief.

This readjustment is probably the least understood, and most critical time of all for the grieving family. This is when they most need the support and understanding of their friends and neighbors. The generous offering of meals is appreciated, I know, and will not be forgotten. But what 'B' and her family will need in the weeks and months afterward, is to know that everyone is still there for them. So often, once the memorials are said, friends and family return to their normal routines, leaving the grief-stricken to deal with their loss by themselves.

Keep in touch with them, call frequently, and visit with them, and include them in your social events whenever it seems appropriate. God Bless you for caring about them. :)
"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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post #18 of 18

You're a good person

This brought up a lot of memories--my first wife died when she was very young, age 34, from brain cancer. I have two boys, then they were 2 and 10.
About a month or so before she died, one of her good friends organized the other friends from church, school, and her bunco group. They all brought dinners, one every weeknight. All of them had kids, so the dinners were very kid friendly. I remember a special lasagna someone brought, lots of salads, soups and casseroles. My inlaws stayed there during the day, so there was plenty of food for them too. It was such a big help since I had to organize all the daily pills, hospice visits, medical bills, plus work full time too. Plus there was a special friend to visit with each evening. The friends wanted to come over, and bringing food made it easier for them. It's best if you can bring the food in disposable containers. One friend who never even cooked for her own kids would bring Subway sandwiches and KFC. Another friend sent his lawn crew over to do my yard on a regular basis.

You probably already know this, but here's a trick I learned from a nurse friend. My wife had no appetite, and the nurse showed me how to feed her liquid Ensure by sticking a straw into the drink, holding yourfinger on the top, then I could put it in her mouth and release it slowly. A small tip but made a big difference for me.

H.
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