Doing something actually helpful for your caregiver!

Hi Honey! I am making dinner! Just what every sick caregiver wants to see when they crawl to the kitchen...

This is strictly aimed at patients with caregivers who are also our wives, husbands, etc. Not that it needs repeating but many dementia patients such as Randy and myself walk around with an extra-special sized bucket of guilt at how much we have had to put on the narrow shoulders of our SO-now-caregiver...we think about it all time and not only can we not see a way to stop it, we can only see it getting worse with time.

Completely by accident this week but a few things came together to point out something important: you (the patient) simply cannot do things as you did before, get over it, thats just how it is with this. However, its not that you absolutely can not do them, rather its more like you cannot do them with any regularity without screwing them up. At the same time, for at least a huge cross-section of these things, you can probably get through doing them once in a great while if thats all you have to work on or deal with.

Thus it is that the time to really help your caregiver isn't everyday, you gotta pick your battles...and when you do put in the effort, you want it to count for something. I am not talking recognition; rather a genuine sense that you helped or did something really good and useful for the caregiver in your life. Its gotta feel "real" for lack of better description....and this week, I found "real" right at my fingertips. Check this out; you can do this too. It happened to me kind of by accident but once I saw how things worked out, I am planning for this in the future, and you can too.

The "trick" or strategy? Figure out how to make a fool-proof meal, like a huge pot of something good, nutritious and that stores well. No shaking of pillars of heaven or solving the national debt, just figure out one good meal.


Caregivers are always having to burn the candle at both ends, so to speak, running themselves ragged keeping up with you, doctors, money, keeping life going and so on. As far as I know, this is as common as breathing. Making them a single meal during all this really will not help much as they will give you a pat on the head and a Hallmark-esque "Oh thank you dear. You helped so much.", usually followed by "whats on TV tonight?".  Its like bringing a single bucket of water to a swimming pool versus a fire. One of those is OK but basically useless in the grand scheme of gotta wait for the fire.

The "fire" in this case is what happens to everyone that has to constantly be in overdrive 24/7, they burn out, they don't take care of themselves, whatever and end up sick in bed for days to a week. They just kinda give out as is only human....and this is precisely when you strike with your good deed.

On the first day the CG is bed or couch-ridden, you can pull out your one meal you can make. I can do more than one of course but the point is, only one is really needed. In this case, this week my CG came down with the crud, I went into the kitchen and made a steaming big pot of goulash. Since I was the cook here for like ever and wanted to keep it up as long as I safely could, I took some of my basic recipes and simplified them so they are not only simple to make (only feels like defusing a bomb to me but...I get thru it), they are safe to make. Chances as unintended amputations or starting the next great wildfire are extremely limited.

This big pot of comfort-food kept us fed for days and was even vaguely nutritious. The big win here was three-fold:

1. Keeping me fed with something decent for days left her time to rest and recover, not just the labor of it but the stress of trying to plan someone elses life when your own feels like shit. So this bought her 2-3 days of recovery.

2. Because this recipe is one of my simplified idiot-proof ones, what is normally a massive mess in the kitchen turns into  just a bunch of extra trash. Its like the parent when the children surprise them with breakfast, they know damned-well what the kitchen will look like. IOW, I did something good and didn't wipe out the kitchen in the process.

3. I didn't need a trip to the ER, call to the fire or police department to make it; was totally safe for me to make. Didn't even have to call animal control this time...

Now goulash is only an example here; a big pot of any kind of comfort food will work, such as most soups, stews and so on.

My entire recipe for this 2-3 day life-saver? Here it is kids:

Completely Grandpa-safe, what you have here is:

* 4 cans diced tomatoes. As luck with have it, the ones I made this with had pull-tabs.

* Spoon of diced garlic in oil.

* Frozen chopped onions

* Box of elbow noodles

* 2 lbs frozen, pre-browned and crumbled burger. This is something we do now when we go to the store and get say 10 lbs of burger on-sale; I brown it all with maybe some onion and garlic on a day when the fog isn't bad and freeze it in one pound baggies. Makes meals of certain kinds damned-near instant. Take one of these baggies, do the microwave for 2 minutes at 30%, then one at 50% and the whole bag is ready to be used.

* Italian seasoning or a can a spaghetti sauce. If you use the seasoning the sauce is not required but if you can't do it (either you don't have it or you can't make your hands do it w/o dumping it all in or something, had days like that this week), the about a half-can of sauce will slightly-thicken things but add a flavor almost like you seasoned it yourself when you were actually incapable of any such thing.

That's it, every damned ingredient. To make, its also simplified to not use things like actual temperatures and times and things which is a good thing for me these days:

1. Put pot on stove, turn on fire to high.

2. Put in a good spoon of garlic in oil.

3. Put in onions.

4. Put in burger.

Stir until things are mixed; its heating up now but you are almost done so that's cool.

5. When the mixture in the pan is mixed well, add in the cans of diced tomatoes.

6. Add either Italian Seasoning to taste or if that's not your thing, about a half can of spaghetti sauce. Our cans are big so if yours is small, use the whole thing.

7. By now (or wait a minute) and the stuff should be coming to a boil. Turn down the heat to low as it can go, simmer for sure and clap on the lid.

Now just wait and in an hour or so, the smells of the goulash should be permeating the house and never discount the ability of a good smell to sell something that's really mediocre. In this case, I get it, in my prime I would go all fresh ingredients, more spices, veggies maybe, etc. But that ain't how things are now so what you have is a very functional set of meals.

To finish, I pour a box of elbow noodles into this microwave pasta maker (which also takes things like measuring out of the equation) I got on Amazon:

Amazon Pasta Maker

Add some water, 10 minutes later I have some al-dente pasta I can use in anything; you even drain the pasta right in the container. In this case, I dump in the noodles, stir and serve.

This can feed alot of people (and if you need to feed more, just double the ingredients) and doesn't taste tastes good enough. I would show a picture of the finished product but we ate it all.

You may also notice this uses no chopping or other work with bladed instruments, very few dishes that can be cleaned up with almost a rinse.

Yes its food and yes you have had better but what this buys for your caregiver at a time when he or she seriously needs it cannot have a price-tag. It doens't have to be goulash; figure out some dish you both like (lots of) and then figure out a super-safe recipe for making it that would allow you to do it on an average day. You can see the short-cuts I built into this one. Chili, Cream of Potato soup with sausage or stews are a few other "big-batch" meals that can be easy and safe to make with planning. As it was, I had already done the planning for this one, if only to make food and not really thinking about using it as a culinary safety net.

As a bonus, those To Go Cups I use to grow pot in also make great freezer containers for this kind of thing too...multi-functional stuff, that's what its all about.

Now that I can see how this works I will be planning a few more just to have in my back-pocket. As it was, this bought Beth the time to rest and heal enough to rejoin life later in this week.

At the end of the day, isn't that the point?


  1. Brings back memories of one of our favorite meals when we were 1st married. I may have to make that one day this week.


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