How can carers support nutrition in those living with dementia?
Those living with dementia can experience nutritional problems arising throughout the disease with progressive cognitive decline. Problems with eating and drinking come from decreased appetite and thirst, physical disabilities, or poor-fitting dentures. Getting regular and nutritious meals might become a challenge for Alzheimer’s patients, but there are several ways in which carers can help them.
1. Remember the basics
Eating well when we get older helps us to be strong and healthy. Carers of people with dementia should remember to provide them with a balanced diet with a variety of different foods. While you can try to limit high saturated fats and refined sugars, don't forget to offer whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. We talked more about nutrition for older adults here.
2. Pay attention to the surroundings
Environmental factors such as eating location and arrangement, sounds, and atmosphere can reduce stress at mealtimes. Carers report that improved lighting, relaxing music, and offering more homelike food service improves food intake in the elderly. You should also limit distractions, so consider turning off the TV when they are eating.
3. Minimize eating or appetite problems
The misuse of dentures means that older adults should avoid foods that are hard to chew and swallow. Try serving them grind, cut, or soft foods like yogurt, mashed potatoes, and soups. If your loved one is struggling with an appetite you can try stimulating the senses with colorful food and nice aromas. Engaging in activities that involve food like baking, going shopping, and preparing meals can help with stimulating the need to eat.
4. Let them be independent
Data shows that giving dementia patients flexibility to eat when hungry or motivated in comparison to formalized mealtimes encourages their independence. Promoting independence in the elderly may reduce the distress and lack of self-worth related to progressing dementia.
5. Consider nutritional supplements
Research shows that patients with low BMIs and severe Alzheimer’s might need to take dietary supplements to ensure the right nutrition. You should always speak to the doctor before deciding to take this approach.
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