Alzheimer’s and dementia affects every aspect of a person’s life, including their ability to make good nutritional decisions. Don’t be surprised if your mother, who spent her whole life making delicious meals for the family, now only wants to eat cereal all day long. It is up to you as a concerned family member or caregiver to help your loved one eat a well-balanced diet.
Nutritional Challenges with Dementia
No doubt, you will notice many changes in your loved one as their dementia progresses. Some of these changes will affect the way they perceive and consume food. For example, you mother may no longer remember how to make her favorite recipes or even forget that she is cooking in the middle of a meal. Her tastes may change, and foods she used to love are now foods that she loathes. As she slips into intermediate or advanced dementia, she may begin to:
– Feel overwhelmed with food choices
– Have difficulty using silverware
– Have trouble chewing and swallowing
You may also notice that her eating behavior changes. It’s not uncommon for medications to affect a person’s appetite. A lack of exercise may also result in less appetite or weight gain.
The first and most important thing you can do when caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s is to observe their eating habits. Try to watch what your loved one eats, how often they eat, and if they have any struggles. You don’t need to take any actions if your loved one is able to cook and feed themselves and is enjoying a well-rounded diet. However, if your mom is eating cereal every single day, often forgets to eat, or has trouble making meals for herself, then it is time to step in.
Help with Meals
If your loved one is struggling to eat a well-balanced diet, it is time for you to take action. This may mean:
- Going to the grocery store with your loved one to pick out healthy foods
- Making meals together
- Adding fruits and veggies to your loved one’s plate
If you are not a live-in caregiver, you might consider making a week’s worth of meals for your loved one and putting them in Tupperware so that your family member can easily heat them up and enjoy. Make sure to clearly label each meal and include heating instructions.
It was hard enough trying to get your young children to eat their vegetables when they were small, and now your mother is putting up a fight too! It can be frustrating to help your loved one at mealtime. They may suddenly decide they hate something that was once their favorite food. Alzheimer’s.org explains that many people with dementia and Alzheimer’s experience changes in their sense of taste and smell, which means your loved one may complain that something is too bland or too spicy or too salty even when it tastes fine to you.
Those with dementia also tend to eat slow and have difficulty chewing. Don’t be surprised if it takes your loved one an hour to finish a meal, or if they forget that they ate and insist on another meal a short time later. You need to be patient and flexible with your loved one. Just remember that your loved one isn’t trying to get your goat on purpose.
One of the best ways to ensure that your loved one is eating enough and eating healthy is to spend mealtimes together. This will also allow you to see if your loved one is getting confused by too much silverware, too many foods on the table, or having trouble chewing. You might realize that it’s a good idea to serve a single food item at a time or that you need to mash or cut up your loved one’s food so they can chew and swallow more easily.
Sharing mealtime also means you get to spend quality time with your family member. This can be a chance to tell old stories or just enjoy each other’s company.
Hydration is a key component of good nutrition, and it is very easy for someone with dementia to forget to drink enough fluids throughout the day and become dehydrated. Again, observe carefully to see that they drink with every meal. Don’t be afraid to offer small glasses of water to your loved one throughout the day, and try to avoid juices, which are filled with extra sugars, or coffee, which can dehydrate your loved one. If your loved one resists drinking water throughout the day, offer them foods with a high water content, like soups, smoothies, fresh fruits, and veggies.
At Sunshine Care, we take the nutritional needs of our residents very seriously. Our residents help us grow lots of organic fruits and veggies right here on our property, which we then use to make fresh, tasty, and highly nutritional meals. Learn more about our popular garden therapy program.
Take a tour of our Memory Care Community & get FREE Shopping in our organic gardens for a year!
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Categories: Memory Care