Regular, nutritious meals are essential for good health at any age but may become a challenge for people with Alzheimer’s. It’s a condition which affects people differently, resulting in various nutritional challenges. For example, 58% of people with dementia forget to eat, while 54% forget they’ve already eaten and then eat again, a study by Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition reveals. This can cause further complications like weight gain, weight loss, worsened symptoms, and an overall loss in quality of life. It’s important to help Alzheimer’s patients overcome any nutritional challenges to keep them strong, fit, and healthy.
Serve healthy foods from different food groups to provide the full range of nutrients. If the patient needs to lose weight, reduce their caloric intake. Keep portions modest yet filling and snacks to a minimum. Alternatively, if they need to gain weight, increase how much they eat and serve higher-calorie foods, like nut butters and full-fat dairy. Your doctor can provide guidelines on daily caloric intake.
Include whole grains or starches, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables with every meal. In fact, a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in late 2016 managed to improve her condition through diet alone. Her son fed her a healthy diet low in fat and high in whole foods like blueberries, leafy greens, and sweet potatoes. These foods are anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants which boost brain health and may even protect against damage to the brain caused by Alzheimer’s.
Brain-healthy foods are also good for you – the caregiver! You can enjoy eating the same meals as your patient and experience health benefits that can help prevent Alzheimer’s. Make kale, spinach, orange-colored vegetables a staple in your diet — these are great for brain and memory. You’ll also have the nutrients and energy you need to care for your patient on top of your other responsibilities.
Making mealtimes easy
Limit distractions: serve meals on a clean, uncluttered table in a quiet, calm environment — no TV or radio playing. This allows the patient to fully focus on food and eating. It also helps to establish a set mealtime routine, so they become accustomed to eating at expected regular times.
Don’t be too rigid with food combinations. People with dementia may pair odd foods together. For example, a savory meal may be eaten with a dessert at the same time. But, ultimately, as long as the food gets eaten, it doesn’t matter how it’s gone about!
Visual and spatial awareness difficulties make it a challenge for Alzheimer’s sufferers to clearly distinguish food from the plate or the plate from the table. Help their food stand out by using white plates and bowls, and a plain yet contrasting-colored placemat.
Finally, make meals times fun! Not only is eating together nice for the patient, it’s also enjoyable for you, too. Mealtimes are a great way to socialize, bond, and retain a healthy sense of normalcy you both can benefit from. With enough patience and adjustments, you can help make mealtimes with an Alzheimer’s patient a success.
Guest post by Sally Phillips