Alzheimer’s disease patients often suffer from malnutrition owing to the nature of the condition, which prevents patients from recognizing their own needs. While a healthy diet can’t cure Alzheimer’s, it can help those who suffer from it feel better in general.
According to WebMD, the basic rules of healthy eating apply to Alzheimer’s patients as well as to the average healthy person. It is best to create a meal plan that allows Alzheimer’s patients to maintain a healthy weight, eat a variety of foods with an emphasis on lean protein and fruits and vegetables, limit fatty, salty and sugary foods and drink sufficient water. It is important, however, to check with the patient’s health care providers regarding contraindications concerning particular foods or beverages and the medication he or she is taking.
Many people tend to eat less when they suffer from constipation. To ensure this isn’t the case with your loved one, help him to stay active, drink plenty of water and eat enough natural sources of fiber, such as produce and whole grains.
People with Alzheimer’s disease often become dehydrated because their body no longer signals thirst as clearly as it did before they developed the condition. To make sure your loved one consumes enough liquids, urge him to take a sip of water between bites of food.
Another side effect of Alzheimer’s is difficulty chewing and swallowing as well as using utensils. In addition, patients sometimes become distracted or agitated when expected to sit and eat an entire full-size meal. This can lead to under-eating and unhealthy weight loss. To offset these issues, offer smaller meals throughout the day, which is often easier for the patient and the caregiver.
To help patients who struggle using utensils, offer finger foods such as quartered tuna sandwiches and chicken nuggets. You can also try having them use spoons and bowls rather than forks and knives. Encourage your loved one to eat the most nutritious items first, and give them a daily multi-vitamin and mineral pill.
Keeping food choices simple is often a successful strategy for encouraging those with dementia to eat, according to the Cleveland Clinic. If your loved one tends to prefer dessert to a meal, try offering healthy sweet snacks, such as fresh fruit or fruit-juice-sweetened baked goods made from scratch.
Unfortunately, poor nutrition tends to exacerbate Alzheimer’s symptoms, which starts a cycle leading to unhealthy weight loss and accelerated mental decline. When all else fails, try offering a shake supplement to the patient several times a day and encourage consumption of high-water-content foods, such as soups, fruit and smoothies.
Other factors that often contribute to a patient failing to eat enough include disease progression, in which the patient no longer recognizes food for what it is, poor-fitting dentures or other oral health issues, new medications that cause a loss of appetite and diminished senses of taste and smell.
As they are easily distracted, Alzheimer’s patients tend to eat more of their meals in quiet environments, away from television or busy parts of the house. In some cases, even table decorations prove too distracting for those with dementia.
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When caregivers find themselves at a complete loss devising a meal plan for a loved one with dementia, they can consult a registered dietitian for help. Such professionals are able to consider a multitude of factors in helping you create a diet plan that works. They can also help you monitor the patient’s eating to determine whether or not changes should be made to the diet plan.
To help Alzheimer’s patients and their loved ones who serve as caregivers, consider shopping at The Alzheimer’s Site. A portion of proceeds from each purchase goes toward a variety of Alzheimer’s charities and projects.Whizzco