Loss of appetite commonly accompanies Alzheimer’s and dementia. Adding to this issue is the fact that as mental and physical function decline, basic skills, such as using a fork or spoonand even drinking from a cup, can also be lost. Ensuring that your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia gets adequate nutrition requires thought and ingenuity.
If food intake is a problem, try the following 10 tips to ensure that every bite counts:
- Junk the junk. As much as possible, you should cut out processed foods and empty-calorie junk foods. If someone is having trouble eating, it is especially important that everything they do eat is healthy.
- Boost the nutrients. Load up food with extra nutrients, such as protein powder and puréed vegetables. Most of the time, these can be added to recipes without a noticeable change in taste.
- First things first. Make sure that you serve the most nutritious food first, before your loved one loses interest in the meal.
- Make it easy. Does your loved one knock their food off their plates? Look into special plates and utensils designed to help people with dementia manage eating.
- Keep it small. Serve finger foods, such as chicken nuggets and fish sticks, if your loved one is having trouble using any type of cutlery.
- Keep it quiet. People with dementia or Alzheimer’s do better in a setting without lots of noise and distractions. This may even include limiting conversation during meals. It definitely includes turning off all electronics.
- Keep it simple. Avoiding distractions can even mean using a plain plate rather than a patterned one. A patterned plate can make it hard for person with dementia to identify what part of the plate is the food. The same goes for tablecloths.
- Keep them company. Sit with your loved one and eat with them. Modeling eating will cue them to eat as well.
- Take your time. Allowing extra time for meals will prevent frustration, both for you and your loved one.
- Be understanding. The nature of Alzheimer’s and dementia is that there will be better days and worse days. Don’t let their difficult day ruin yours.
While these tips will help you maximize your loved one’s ability to eat properly, be on the lookout for weight loss. Nutritionists and dietitians that specialize in helping older people eat, such as the staff Hamilton Grove Health Care and Rehabilitation Center in Hamilton, NJ, can help you take care of your loved one if eating becomes a serious problem. Call Hamilton Grove at 609-588-5800 or contact us here.