Part of staying well is a nutritious diet. This is even more important for people who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia. Check out our tips for helping your older adult eat well!
• Choose foods the person enjoys. Make sure their diet includes a lot of fresh produce and choose organic when possible.
• Offer a few choices so they can be in control as much as possible. Asking them whether they would like fish or chicken can greatly simplify things.
• Choosing easy foods such as salad kits or pre-made mashed potatoes is also quite helpful.
If cooking is a challenge for you, consider using a service that brings the food directly to your home, such as Meals on Wheels. If your loved one still lives at home, you may need to call and remind them to eat all their meals each day. You could also make sure they have food in the house that does not need to be cooked or prepped.
Maintain Familiar Routines
Alzheimer’s Disease causes change to be difficult, so maintaining as much consistency as possible is important. This is especially true when it comes to meals. Following the schedule for when to eat each day helps the person know what to expect and not have anxiety.
Be sure any caretakers who come in to help are also aware of these preferences.
Try these tips:
• Stay positive and upbeat during mealtimes. Use it as an opportunity to have social interaction.
• Don’t rush. Staying relaxed and allowing the person ample time to finish eating will create a calm environment.
• Be aware of cultural differences with food choices and respect those. For instance, some people may like tortillas rather than bread, or some cultures don’t allow for pork to be consumed.
• Plan on serving meals at times the person has been used to. Again, change can really throw someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s into a tailspin.
• Serve meals in the same location when possible. They may have a favorite chair at the table or a favorite recliner with a TV tray.
• Avoid adding things to a familiar routine. For instance, they may not be a big breakfast eater. If this is the case, just keep it the way they are used to having it.
You may have to adapt or adjust familiar routines as the disease progresses, simply because the person’s needs may change. For example, if the family routine has always been to serve appetizers ahead of meals, make sure they are nutrient-dense or a little higher in calories, so they can maintain a healthy weight.
Initial stages of Alzheimer’s will not see a lot of change in the patient’s eating habits, so they may be fine living alone for a while in the beginning. As changes need to happen, they may not be safe on their own any longer. If you notice any of the following, it may not be safe to live alone:
• Forgetting to eat
• Food left on the stove to burn
• Forgetting to turn appliances off
There can be other challenges, such as refusing to eat or not staying put long enough to finish a meal. This tends to happen as the diseases advances and can lead to malnourishment or dehydration, and even blood pressure or heart rate that is too low. Not eating also makes it difficult for a person to maintain their body temperature. If you notice difficulty in chewing or swallowing, it’s time to talk to the physician and find out what can be done.
Eating well helps people fight any disease, including dementia and Alzheimer’s! For more information on healthy eating and how to get your loved one to settle into a good food routine, contact us today!