Meal Planning

Meal Planning

Food is a matter of much discussion all across the country.  It evokes emotions all across the spectrum, especially if people have food related illnesses that need to be controlled, like diabetes.  Food is a topic of debate even with people in their younger years.  Should you have more protein in your diet or more fat?  Should you limit your carbohydrates?  How much sugar is acceptable and which forms of sugar are healthy?  How do dietary needs change as we get older?  We can easily open up a can of worms if you bring up a specific kind of diet plan, and everyone seems to have an opinion about what is best.

For elderly people, diet and meal planning may not be as much of a hot topic but it has, perhaps the greatest potential to change health outcomes among any group of people alive.  The method discussed below will be for a one or two person household that has to plan for every meal throughout the week.  But it can be applied to a larger family or groups of individuals - such as those living in assisted living or independent living communities.  There are a variety of ways to make this process even easier, one is by using an internet-based food delivery system.  Another way is to use or another internet-based business to order staple supplies, like canned goods, that you can used for multiple meals.  It saves you the expense and trouble of arranging the transportation of going to the grocery store.  There are other systems, such as nutria-system, that will do the work of meal planning for you and you only need to arrange for the pick up or delivery of the food.   If you are on a tight budget, also look into a program called, “Meals on Wheels” which may be available in your area for a meal on a regular basis.

The Approach

If you are starting from scratch, print a blank calendar for one month.  Divide each day into 3 sections by placing lines across the box.  On a separate piece of paper write down the things you’ve discussed with your doctor or nutritionist that need to be incorporated into your diet.  Many elderly people find that they are not getting enough protein, some also find that they need to cut sugar out of their diets.  Some need to include more foods with iron or calcium.  Whatever your needs are, write them out on the paper beside your calendar so that you do not lose sight of that while you’re making your plan.  Research which foods carry the goal nutrients you’re hoping to increase & write them beside your list.  If you choose to plan for an entire month, but most people plan for 2 weeks at a time.  If you meal plan for a month, plan to use fresh, quickly perishable foods at the beginning of the month (berries, asparagus, etc).  Longer lasting produce in the middle of the month (carrots, cabbage, apples). And finally, canned options for later in the month.

Now, think about your day & your natural appetite.  If you are not usually hungry in the morning, you can still plan for what you’ll eat for breakfast but make the portions smaller so that you do not feel ill upon eating.  Be sure to write water at the top of each day’s meal if you are trying to improve your hydration.  It is a simple item that often gets overlooked when one lives alone.

As you plan for your breakfast, be sure to include a protein, fat, carbohydrate and a fruit or vegetable each meal.  Protein is very important at the first meal because it helps to keep your blood sugars stabilized throughout the day.  The carbohydrate will give you the quick energy that you need to get up an get moving.  An example of a balanced breakfasts might be: 1 scrambled egg (or egg white) with spinach, 1 piece of toast with butter, & a handful of cherries.

Another option might be: A bowl of oatmeal with fruit and cream, and a hard-boiled egg. Some people try to eliminate anything sweet from their diets, but it is better to include fruit with a low glycemic index so that you eat a bit occasionally instead of starving yourself of it and then crashing and eating half of a chocolate cake.  If you find that you need to reduce your sugar intake drastically but cannot kick the cravings, begin taking a strong probiotic.  These bacteria help to digest the sugars and the candida in your body, balance out your own gut bacteria and eventually nearly eliminate cravings for sugars.

Lunches are generally the largest meal of the day, but feel free to adjust to your own lifestyle.  Include a type of starchy carbohydrate to hold you over for the afternoon, something like rice, potatoes or pasta.  Whole grains options are much better for sluggish digestion than their enriched and bleached counterparts. Add in a protein, and a lot of vegetable options.  Have milk or another type of drink that includes calcium if you’re supposed to be improving your calcium intake.   This is generally the best time to take vitamins, as well, as your stomach will be more stable and the heavier food makes it easier to digest them without upset.

Suppers should include similar things to lunch, but in lighter proportions for easier and faster digestion.  Remember that you’ll be lying down a few hours after you eat, so if you like spicy food, you may want to have it over the lunch hour rather than the supper hour so that heartburn will not keep you awake!

With all of these things in mind, make out your meal plan.  Include a few foods that you enjoy, but do not have regularly, like fish perhaps.  This gives you something to look forward as you begin to prepare for your week.

From Grocery Store to Pantry Shelves

After you’ve finished shopping in the store or online, and before you put the items away, get your meal plan out.  Look at what types of meals you have listed.  If you have several meals that include ground beef, for instance, that need to be browned, take the opportunity to brown it now.  You can freeze it in individual meal portions for use later in the week or month.  Also take care of washing, shredding, dicing and chopping any produce that will need that preparation.  One of the chief complaints that I hear from senior citizens regarding food preparation is that it doesn’t seem worth it to go to all that trouble and have all those dishes “just for me”.  If you consolidate the food prep into one evening, it cuts down drastically on the dishes because instead of having to haul out the frying pan for each time you need to brown a ¼ # of meat, you only haul it out once and wash it once.

Make sure to mark any of the portions that you refrigerate or freeze in advance so you know what  is included and perhaps even write which meal you planned it for.

Sharing Is Fun

Another thing to consider when you’re making your meal plan, if you have the funds to do so, is to plan a couple of meals that you could share with others.  Plan on having someone over a couple of times during the month.  This will give you confidence to do so without having to come up with a plan at the last minute.  It will also help you to have something to look forward  to.  If you have young children that come to visit, consider adding the ingredients for cookies or a dessert to your shopping list so that you’re prepared.

Whichever combination of tools you use to be sure that you’re eating properly, be sure to use a meal plan of some kind.  Any large changes to your current diet should be considered with your health professional and/or doctor.  A healthy diet can be the difference between years of good health and energy and years of just getting by with little energy and stress.  No one really likes to plan meals well in advance, but stress is eliminated, budgets are easier to maintain and health is improved when we do!  Good luck!  If you run out of  ideas, have someone over to eat with you and maybe you can brainstorm together some options that might be good for both of you  to include on your menus in the future!


Community Events For The Elderly


It has recently been noted by scientists & journalists that while we are living in a very advanced society as far as social media technology is concerned, most people are incredibly lonely.  It is one of the loneliest times to be alive on our planet despite the quantity of people & the advanced number of ways to interact with others!  How can this be?  Oftentimes it is because people choose to interact using devices instead of actually getting together with other humans face to face.  I understand.  It's easier.  If you have to drive long distances to meet up with someone, you put it off or find other alternatives.  If both of you have extremely busy schedules, you choose to interact through a device instead of carving time out of your schedule.  But, is this best?  Especially when it comes to our aging population?

If you have been to a rural community event recently, you will notice that many elderly people make it a point to be involved in what is going on in their surrounding areas.  I was recently at a fundraiser in an outlying area for a group of first responders.  Approximately ½ to 2/3 of the attendees were elderly.  They were not there to be recruited as first responders...they were there to meet up with neighbors and remain involved in what was going on in the community.  The volunteers that organized the gathering certainly appreciated their attendance, but they were not the only ones that benefited from the experience. Community Events can help the elderly in a number of ways.

First:  It helps them to maintain social connections during a lonely time of life.  Perhaps many of their family & close friends have passed on, but they may re-connect with others that they've been acquainted with in the past or perhaps even make a new acquaintance or friend.

Second:  It gets them out & about.  Life during aging can certainly become mundane.  Community events help to break up the monotony & change up the schedule a bit, which gives all of us a bit of excitement in our lives!

Third:  It helps them to know that they're still a part of the greater community.  Knowing that you're part of something bigger can give comfort in a sense of belonging that few other things can match.

Fourth:  It helps them to know that they can contribute.  There are almost always little ways that they can help at community events.  Perhaps helping at a fair they can sit at the table & check in items to be judged.  Perhaps they can help price items for a bake sale for a fundraiser.  Perhaps they could help with decorating tables.  There are a number of ways to contribute, even with just being present at an event.  The organizers will then know that it was worth their time & energy to make the event special.

It used to be that community events were much more common than they are today.  Perhaps the younger generations can learn something from those who still see the benefit of gathering together with those in your vicinity.



If you are lucky enough to live in a place where the snow falls across the landscape periodically in the winter, you know what newness looks like.  For those of you who do not, you’ll have to use your imagination.  Imagine the fall season, when everything looks beautiful for awhile.  This quickly gives way to a season of brown, a season of sleep and of death.  The landscape becomes colorless and rather uninspiring.  Many times the paths become muddy, adding to the ugliness after fall.  You begin to wonder whether you’ll ever see signs of color again.

Seasons of our lives are like that too, devoid of color, of life & of hope.   The most important thing to remember during times like these is that it is only a season.  Sometimes the season seems to last a short while, and we are grateful.  Sometimes the season drags on until you’re not sure you can stand another minute.  Seasons are wonderful, because they are limited.  The brown time after fall does not last forever.  Neither do the ugly times we walk through in life, or the hectic times, or the times when everything around us seems to be losing life.

When snow comes, it has not really purified anything.  It hasn’t cleaned up the ground.  It hasn’t yet put fresh water into the springs.  It hasn’t fixed any of the things that need to be fixed.  It simply covers everything, insulates it and causes life to slow.  It changes the view you have on life because it changes the landscape around you.  It forces you to pause, and to reflect on what is possible, what is feasible and what can wait.  If it was not terribly important before the snow, it will be less so once the snow has fallen.  It sharpens perspective and priorities. And it gives our brains a time of rest to hope and to dream.  You cannot plant a garden, but you have a spot of longing to dream about the garden.  You cannot fix the roof, but you can prepare for the task on the next lovely day.

In life, we all need the different seasons that we walk through.  Many people resent winter, but I’m an advocate of it.  Winter in life might seem as though everything is on hold, stuck, slow and cold.  But winter also gives time for rest, reflection and the dreams of hope to begin.  It insulates us for a bit so that all of life is not sadness or busyness.  It covers things with white so that we can change perspective and come again at life from a different angle and with a better strategy.  Just like newly fallen snow.

If you’re in a late autumn or winter season of your life, I recognize that it is sometimes very unpleasant. When those times come, try accepting it as a gift to slow, adjust, sleep and finally dream. There will be time enough to be busy once spring hits.  For now, enjoy the newness of freshly fallen snow.



It is a new year.  With all things new, we tend to have our hopes set very high.  It is common, especially when the year is at it’s start to have high hopes for the things that will change in the coming year.  The bad habits that we’ve formed over the past years, we hope to discontinue.  We also hope to somehow work our way toward a healthier & happier life in the year ahead by forging new habits with some sort of immense willpower which has, until January the first, alluded us.  Our expectations may be unrealistic & our efforts laughable, at times. After having no exercise routine for years we suddenly hope to run 5 miles a day, 6 days out of the week.  After drinking soda daily since we were teens, we hope to drink only water, herbal tea and probiotic rich drinks.  But, just because we sometimes set unrealistic goals for ourselves does not mean that new habits are futile to try to attain.  On the contrary, new  & wholesome habits are important and worthy goals set.  There are better ways to go about it, however, than strictly by grunt-force willpower.

  1. One at a time. Habits are formed through doing them, not by resolving to do them. For this reason it is best to choose one habit at a time to work on.  It takes a great deal of energy to make the decision to do something new each time you must do it. For instance, if you do not have the habit of walking each morning, it takes just as much effort to decide to put on your gear and get out the door as it does to actually do the walking.   Once the effort of decision is less, you can move on to more habits that you’d like to form, but not until then, lest you abandon the progress you’ve made on the first habit.
  2. Specific, Measurable, attainable, reasonable, trackable. You’ve probably already heard of making goals that are “S.M.A.R.T”.  Remember to make your goals each of the things listed above.  It is better to say, “I’m going to eat at least 2 green vegetables a day,” than “I’m going to get healthier this year.”  If you can measure a goal, you’ll know whether you’ve reached it or not.  If you cannot measure a goal, you can easily fool your own mind into believing that you’ve attained it, even without evidence.
  3. Once your goals or habits have become easier, move on to solidifying them in such a way as it will be difficult to break them in the future.  Try to be sure you do them 21 times in a row, without pause.  Notice how much easier it is each time.
  4. Wagons & Trains. You’ve probably heard habits described as ruts in a road that makes it easier for a wagon to find its way with ease. They’ve also been described as putting down track for a train to later follow on easily.  Whichever way you look at it, habits are the pre-cursors that we follow on, often without thought.
  5. Good or Bad. Because it would require too much effort to think through each action, habits are actually little blessings throughout our day. If you had to pay heed to things like tying your shoes each time that you did it and decide to do it a different way each time, your mind would be full of that action & unable to think ahead to some of the heavier decisions that had to be made throughout the day.  One thing is certain, we are forming habits all throughout the day, every day.  Not making your bed each morning is just as much habit as making your bed.  Eating sugary cereal and coffee is just as much habit as eating veggies and eggs.  You are laying down rails through habits.  Is the railway taking you where you want to go?

Dialysis, What You Need to Know


Diabetes is running rampant throughout the world, but it’s prevalence in the United States of America is almost unchallenged.  If you’ve listened to health news at all in the past decade, you will have heard it described as an epidemic.  This is not without reason.  An epidemic is defined as: “a disease widely occurring in a community at a particular time.”  The current estimate of people in the US who have diabetes is 8% of the population!  More than that also have pre-diabetes.  If you do not have diabetes, chances are good that someone who is close to you does have it & you may have to help them navigate the difficult journey toward health.

Of course, the best option for anyone with pre-diabetes or diabetes is to do your absolute best to control blood sugars with diet.  This advice from doctors is often shoved aside or minimized as simplistic, yet the things that go into our bodies have a profound impact on the outcomes of our health.  Find a diet protocol and stick to it, especially if you have not followed a protocol closely before.  Only you know whether or not you have done the work on this end to see if it affects the outcome.  Keep a food journal for a month.  Be honest.  It is sometimes difficult to admit that we do not have control over a certain aspect of our lives, but it is imperative if you want to delay insulin or dialysis for as long as possible.  If you do a food journal and decide that you really have an addiction to sugar that you’re unable to control, look for help.

Often, sugar addictions can be greatly reduced with a strong, therapeutic probiotic.  Look for probiotics that have 30-60 million live organisms listed in their ingredients.  The cravings for sugar are often caused by an overgrowth of yeast in the body.  Sugar feeds the yeast (candida) and your body will cue sugar cravings in an attempt to satisfy the candida.  Try a probiotic of this strength for a couple of months and you may well find that your sugar cravings decrease, and your blood sugars improve. 

If you have done all that you know to control your blood sugars and your doctors have come to the conclusion that you need to consider dialysis to lengthen your life or improve the quality of life, there are several things to consider about the decision.  If your dialysis treatment is aggressive, you MAY be able to go off of dialysis.  There is not a cure for diabetes, but there is intensive self-care, including dietary interventions, exercise, weight loss, insulin, etc. that will help, over time, to reduce your dependence on dialysis.

If you are at the end of options without dialysis, it can prolong your life for 3-5 years in some cases.  It acts as an artificial kidney so that toxins can continue to be removed from your body.  This could give you the extra time you need in order to find a kidney donor and get a transplant that you need.

It can improve the quality of your life.  The bottom line is that you need to have toxins removed from your blood.  Your kidneys are the organs that do that.  If your kidneys are not operating well, you will need help to remove those toxins or you will feel the side effects of having all of those toxins building up.  You’ll stop desiring to eat, be nauseous or vomit, lack energy, and eventually it will lead to coma & death if left untreated. 

All of these benefits, however, need to be weighed against side effects of dialysis treatment & take into consideration the overall health and age of a patient.   Infection is one common side effect of dialysis.  If you are a person whose immune system is compromised, it is possible that the treatment might open the door for infection that would take your life before your kidney problems would.  You’d need to discuss the implications of each decision with your doctor and proceed cautiously.

Also, if you or your loved one that would receive treatment are extremely elderly, you may want to know that the treatments have several other side effects like headaches, dry, burning and itching skin, & difficulty sleeping.  Some people choose a better quality of life over length of life, especially if the treatment becomes unbearable.

The decision to go on or to continue with dialysis is a difficult one to make.  Each person is unique and has their own unique health history so there are no easy answers.  You’ll need time to think, to research and to have candid conversations with your health providers and family that may not be comfortable.  In the end, however, it is always a good thing to be faced with our own mortality so that we can decide which things we value most and make informed choices about how to spend these fleeting days that are left to us. 

Your Computer Is Only as Good as What You Can Make It Do: Choosing and Using Your Computer or Cell Phone


We Have the Power of a Mainframe

Computer at Our Fingertips

Today’s computers and even your cell phone are very fast and very powerful.  What you can now hold in your hand, has the same computer power as computers that used to fill several rooms.  Suffice it to say, that today’s computers and cell phones can perform any task you need.


What computer should I choose?


How and where are you going to use your computer?

Is portability important?

Do you need a large screen or is a hand held device what you need?



Computers Have Gotten Easier to Use

If you are patient enough, you can set up your computer to do most things by following your voice commands.  It will even type what you say.  If you can type with two fingers, you can master your computer.

Computer Basics Are Quick and Easy to Learn

Did you know you can learn all the basic skills you need to be the master of your computer system in one hour?  You will quickly begin to feel comfortable with your computer.  In less than 15 minutes, you will send your first email.


Imagine being able to initiate a video call with your favorite grandchild.


You Are NOT Going to Break Your Computer




So, with a bit of patience, you can learn to playfully try new things on your computer.  If you don’t get the result you want the first time, simply try again.  You will soon have a friendly assistant.Short of spilling your coffee or smashing your computer in frustration, you cannot break your computer.  No matter how lost you become, starting over is as easy as powering your system off and on.






Senior Living: Keeping Your Elderly Loved Ones Safe During the Pandemic




The News Can Be Frightening

The news is full of stories and statistics about the devastation of Covid-19 for our seniors in retirement facilities.  The pandemic began in the US at a retirement facility.  In New Jersey, over half the deaths are in those facilities.

The News Presents a Distorted Picture

If we just stop and consider what we know about senior living facilities, we realize that there is a wide variety of options when considering senior living facilities, ranging from ‘nursing homes’ to retirement communities with individual condominiums. There are many more facilities with no Covid-19 outbreaks than there are with outbreaks that create such frightening statistics of infections and deaths.

BeeHive Homes Offers Safe, Affordable Senior Care Choices

At BeeHive Homes, we are committed to the safety and health of our clients.  Our facilities are designed to keep individual housing units small (from 12 to 21 residents).  This allows us to more effectively control the residential environment.  Here are some of the other ways we keep our clients safe:



BeeHive Homes Offers Peace of Mind

Here at BeeHive Homes we have been in this crisis since March 11, 2020.  So far, there hasn’t been a single positive case of COVID-19 among our Residents!  The proactive measures we have executed paired with the small home-like environment of our BeeHive Homes makes us a safe place and the next best place to Home.  If you or a loved one needs assisted living, don’t let this pandemic hold you back.  We’d love the opportunity to help you make this decision and give you the options you are looking for.

Chi Gong for the Elderly: Part 2

What Is Chi Gong?

‘Chi’ is the vital force, the life force that is transmitted by the breath.  “Gong’ can be translated as exercise.  So chi gong provides exercises that maximize the benefits of healthy breathing.  The great news for seniors is that there are literally hundreds of simple exercises that maximize the benefits of breath and chi.  Many exercises can be done while sitting in a chair or even lying down.

What Are the Benefits of Doing Chi Gong?

One may notice an overall improvement in physical well-being.  You just feel better.  When you feel good physically, all of your life feels better.

Doing Chi Gong With Physical Impairments

Trouble standing?  Problems that keep you in a wheelchair?  Bedridden?  No problem.  All the exercises I will be offering can be done sitting and even lying in a bed.  In this first column, I will offer two simple exercises that can be done standing, sitting, or even lying in a bed.  Like any exercise, however, the benefits will only be realized by those who do them on a regular basis.  Make a commitment to do these exercises at least once a day and preferably twice a day.

Exercise Three - Shoot the Tiger

Standing, or sitting Slowly, while breathing in through the nose, reach the right hand in front across to the opposite shoulder.  Pull and arrow from your quiver.  Sweep the arrow in a large circle.  The opposite hand follows in its own sweeping circle. Now do the same exercise starting with the left hand reaching to the right shoulder.   Repeat 7 more times to each side.


Exercise Four -

Snake Sticks Out Its Tongue

Breathing in, the right hand raises to just in front of the mouth.  Fingers touch at the tips  Now reach out like a tongue coming from the mouth. The left hand comes to the mouth, palm out.  Now repeat this using the left hand as a tongue, the right defending the face, palm facing out.  Repeat 7 more times to each side.


Come back next time and I will share more Chi Gong exercises.


(The Rev. Jim Norton is a retired Episcopal priest and Sufi teacher.  He has been doing Tai Chi and Chi Gong for over 50 years.)

Solitaire for Health and Well-Being


Benefits of Playing Regular Solitaire

Mental Health

How would you define good mental health in old age? 



The list could go on forever.  But let’s talk about old age mental health in more scientific and medical terms.



We can all agree, that having a good ability to focus our attention and thought on one thing at a time, is a healthy sign in old age.  To play solitaire well, one needs to be able to focus on one task or assessment at a time.




Concentration is an important aspect of focus. Solitaire requires one to be able to concentrate on multiple forcing at one time. Many simultaneous decisions must be made to get good at solitaire.




Problem Solving

The game of solitaire requires one to hone one's problem solving skills.  These multiple problems must be looked at individually,and also in the context of the whole game.  Solitaire provides a fun way to get daily mental exercise, thus helping to keep our minds functioning and sound as we age.


We can recommend trying your favorite game of solitaire against your computer.


Double solitaire, doubles the Benefits

The innovations of the World Wide Web and the computing power of our handheld devices have enabled us to play any card game with any number of other folks.  If you have never tried this, please accept this invitation to google, interactive card games.

You will be benefiting your own health and well being and that of your friends, old and new.

Chi Gong for the Elderly

What Is Chi Gong?

‘Chi’ is the vital force, the life force that is transmitted by the breath.  “Gong’ can be translated as exercise. So chi gong provides exercises that maximize the benefits of healthy breathing.  The great news for seniors is that there are literally hundreds of simple exercises that maximize the benefits of breath and chi.  Many exercises can be done while sitting in a chair or even lying down.

What Are the Benefits of Doing Chi Gong?



One may notice an overall improvement in physical well-being.  You just feel better. When you feel good physically, all of your life feels better.

Doing Chi Gong With Physical Impairments

Trouble standing?  Problems that keep you in a wheelchair?  Bedridden? No problem. All the exercises I will be offering can be done sitting and even lying in a bed.  In this first column, I will offer two simple exercises that can be done standing, sitting, or even lying in a bed.  Like any exercise, however, the benefits will only be realized by those who do them on a regular basis. Make a commitment to do these exercises at least once a day and preferably twice a day.  

Exercise One - Two Hands Reach the Sky

Standing, sitting, or lying in a bed, Slowly, while breathing in through the nose, raise both hands in front of you.  Stretch both hands above you. Form claws with your hands at the top. Bring your hands slowly down in front of your face as you breathe out slowly through the nose, grasping the energy from the sky.  Let your hands relax as they drop. Finally, spread the energy out to bless the earth. Repeat 7 more times.  


Exercise Two - Kidney Rub

Rub your hands together vigorously in front of you while slowly breathing in and out through the nose.  Now wash your face without touching it. Next, repeat rubbing your hands together. Finally, reach around your back as best you can, forming two loose fists and rub your kidney area with a circular motion.  Repeat 7 more times.