Friday, April 6, 2012

Q&A: After surgery meals

Q.            My father just had open heart surgery. (His aortic valve was replaced and the mitral valve was repaired. Plus he had a hole in his heart.)  He is 81 years old so this has been a HUGE undertaking for him; he is only in his second week of recovery.
            My sister and I have taken on the job of preparing his meals for him and mom daily. My dad not only has had heart surgery but is diabetic, too. He is asking for all the wrong things to eat which I know are bad for him (Hardees Steak biscuits , etc).
            Another dilemma to consider is that while in the hospital.....they pulled all his teeth. He has sore, tender gums and eating is difficult as he can’t chew much yet.
            Can you advise me on proper foods that I can fix him that is cardiac and diabetic safe for him but has flavor? Any other tips such as salt? Butter?  I have no clue as to the dos and don’ts in this process. MF North Carolina

A.            It sounds like there are lots of  issues with your father’s health, but first and foremost, he needs nourishment to help him heal from his surgeries (including the teeth extractions).   For now, make it easy on yourself and give your dad soft but nutritious foods. Some foods to try are custard, yogurt, cooked cereal, scrambled eggs (3-4 eggs a week is OK even with heart issues), pudding, yogurt, applesauce, other canned fruit, etc. You could even offer him something like Carnation breakfast essentials (mixed with milk, high in protein), or Boost or Ensure to help get some protein in.
            After he has more strength and his gums are good and healed, then see if he and your mom are willing to meet with a registered dietitian at your local hospital for more specific food advice (your dad's physician can refer you to one). The hospital where he had surgery likely has a cardiac rehab dietitian who can direct all of you to more heart healthy and diabetes-friendly food options. Your dad may not take advice from you, but may be willing to listen to a professional. If he does not want to go, then that is his choice, but at least you will have tried to do the right thing for him.

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