Nutrition is an important part of everyone's life, and that includes people who are suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Though there is no one specific diet or eating approach that is prescribed for people with this disease, doctors recommend that family caregivers help their adult choose foods that are nutritious and will give their bodies what they need to stay healthy, resilient, and strong. Because this disease carries with it an increased risk of infection and illness, eating healthy can be a front-line defense for your parent, protecting them and helping them to live higher quality of life.
Unfortunately, this is not always as easy for a senior with this disease as it is for a senior without it. Seniors with dementia often struggle with not being able to interpret hunger pangs, not recognizing food, or having difficulties with the actual mechanics of eating. Choosing foods carefully can help your parent to maintain more independence with eating, reduce the risk of choking and other hazards, and support your parent in eating a healthy, balanced diet as they progress through the disease.
Use these tips to help you choose foods to serve your senior with Alzheimer's disease:
- Remember that the familiar is not always best. It might be your first compulsion to give your parent all of their favorite foods, but this is not always going to work. Elderly adults with Alzheimer's disease often reject familiar foods and no longer enjoy them. If you notice this, try other foods rather than trying to force them to eat the familiar ones.
- Choose the right temperature. The temperature of a food is a major part of the enjoyment of the food. Make sure that you serve foods at the temperature that they were intended for the best flavor and best texture, and the most scent, all of which can support a healthy appetite.
- Don't overwhelm them. Making decisions can be extremely challenging for an elderly adult and giving them too many options at once can frustrate them. This can lead to them not eating at all. Rather than giving them a plate of different foods to choose from, giving them just one or two options at a time.
- Go for nutrition first. Seniors with Alzheimer's often have a lower appetite than those without the disease. When selecting foods, make sure you choose those that will offer the most nutrition first rather than just concentrating on pleasure.
- Avoid high fat, salty, and sugary foods. Foods with too much fat, salt, or sugar can lead to serious health issues for your parent. Avoid these additives by using fresh foods rather than convenience or prepared options, and reduce them in your cooking. Keep in mind, however, that seniors with dementia often struggle with reduced sense of taste and adding a little bit of sugar to foods in the advanced stage of the disease can encourage them to eat more.
If you have been looking for ways to enhance your parent's life, improve their care, and support their highest quality of life possible as they age in place, now may be the ideal time for you to consider starting elder care for them. An elderly home care services provider can be there with your parent to ensure that they always have access to the level of care, support, and assistance that is right for them to help them manage their individual needs and challenges, seek as much activity and independence as possible, and life a fulfilling lifestyle as they age in place. These highly personalized services can include safe and reliable transportation, assistance with keeping their home clean and healthy, assistance with personal care tasks such as bathing, grooming, and toileting, medication reminders to keep them compliant, and help with needs such as meal preparation. As a family caregiver, knowing that your parent is getting these services can give you peace of mind and ease your stress, allowing you to take a step back and focus more time and energy on other needs in your life, such as your children, your marriage, your career, and yourself.