One common challenge as an Alzheimer’s caregiver is getting your loved one to eat nutritious meals on a regular basis. Many times mealtime can become a struggle for those with AD who are no longer able to prepare their own meals. Changes in appetite and difficulty eating are common in individuals with dementia and even with those who are experiencing the normal changes that accompany the aging process.
Mealtime can also be an important time for family and social interaction-even more reason to attempt to encourage your loved one with AD to eat healthy meals regularly.
Many times frustration can occur around meal time both in the caregiver as well as the individual with AD. There are health complications that can occur as a result of lack of appetite in those with AD including: dehydration, malnutrition and an increased risk of infection due to the immune system not being properly supported. Low blood pressure is also common in individuals with AD who don’t eat properly.
Maintaining proper nutrition is vital to overall health in your loved one with AD. Good nutrition can also help the body combat stress, and help prevent physical problems while contributing to a higher quality of life. Identifying problems with appetite and eating and encouraging nutritious meals is a primary part of caregiving.
Tips for Encouraging Nutritious Meals in those with Alzheimer’s
Safety comes first-ensure that your loved one can swallow properly and observe for choking hazards
Offer favorite foods that are easy to eat in bite sized pieces
Assist your loved one in shopping for healthy food choices
Avoid foods that are difficult to chew such as tough meat or raw vegetables
Make sure your loved one sits up straight when eating
Get trained in the Heimlich maneuver in case of an emergency
Tips for Decreased Appetite
Increasing physical activity is one way to improve the appetite. Plan a regular exercise routine (with the physician’s approval). Incorporate smaller meals more frequently instead of trying to force large meals. Be sure to report to the physician any weight loss as well as signs or symptoms of dehydrations. Meal supplementation like vitamins and other supplements should ONLY be given under the supervision of the attending physician.
Learn more about nutrition and Alzheimer’s disease by CLICKING HERE to sign up for our 25 topic Alzheimer’s caregivers’ course offered on AlzU.org today.