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Preparing Meals for Alzheimer’s Patients

apples


If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you’re probably aware of the challenges that come with trying to feed that loved one. Mealtime can be a stressful encounter for individuals with Alzheimer’s, as well as caregivers. Rather than looking at meals as a challenge, look at them as opportunities—opportunities to connect with loved ones, reflect on the day, and work together to produce a lovely meal! Here are some hurdles that caregivers might cross and mealtime suggestions.

Understand the Challenges

Eating-related Alzheimer’s challenges can result from:

  • Cognitive issues such as the inability to express one’s needs, using utensils, and remembering to eat
  • Behavioral and psychosocial issues such as depression, distress, and having difficulty sitting down for meals
  • Physical problems such as fatigue and chewing difficulties
  • Environmental issues such as confusion, poor lighting, unpleasant odors, and uncomfortable room temperature
  • Food and menu-related concerns such as having too many options or unappealing food presentation
  • Decreased appetite from use of certain medications or food-medication interactions

Assess the Situation

Assessing the mealtime situation can help caregivers understand what is happening from the care recipient’s perspective and resolve problems. Family members and other caregivers should assess:

  • The visual aspects of the environment
  • The sounds and noises in the environment
  • How the food smells, tastes, and feels
  • How well the care recipient manages the mechanics of eating
  • The emotional climate in the room

kitchen

It is important for the caregiver to note whether the person is eating and drinking enough. Caregivers should monitor the individual’s weight and eating habits to assess any nutrition-related issues and pay particular attention to:

  • How much and what kinds of foods/fluids the person consumes per day
  • What times the person tends to be hungry
  • Weight/appetite changes
  • How physically active the person is daily

Maintain Familiar Routines

Change can be difficult for all parties involved, so maintaining lifelong preferences and eating habits can make the process easier. Maintaining a sense of normality adds pleasure and reassurance, as well as eases the tension that often arises during mealtimes. Routines provide important cues that it is time to eat. Suggestions in doing this include:

  • Identifying food preferences
  • Eating meals at specific times
  • Serving meals in a familiar place and way
  • Avoiding unfamiliar routines, such as serving breakfast to a person who typically doesn’t eat breakfast

Nutrition Tips

healthy eating fruitsProper nutrition is important to keep the body strong and healthy. These simple tips can help boost your loved one with Alzheimer’s health, as well as yours:

  • Provide a balanced diet with a variety of foods. Offer vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein foods.
  • Limit foods with high saturated fat and cholesterol. Some fat is good, but not all fats are equal. Go light on things like butter, solid shortening, and fatty cuts of meats.
  • Cut down on refined sugars. Often found in processed foods, refined sugars contain calories but lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Please note that if loss of appetite is a problem, adding sugar may encourage eating.
  • Limit foods with high sodium and use less salt. Most people consume too much sodium, which affects blood pressure. Try cutting down by using spices or herbs to season food as an alternative.

View Mealtimes as Opportunities

Looking at preparing a meal, setting the table, and enjoying a meal together as an opportunity can help overcome some of the challenges associated with mealtimes.  For example, preparing and eating a meal is an opportunity for those with Alzheimer’s to maintain functional skills and feelings of personal control. Plus, having positive interactions during the mealtime process can boost the morale of everyone involved.

It is the caregiver’s responsibility to understand the possible challenges, assess how those challenges can be overcome, as well as provide a well-balanced meal. The individual with Alzheimer’s sole responsibility should be to enjoy mealtime and provide an occasional laugh at the dinner table. We all have to eat, so why not enjoy the process.  

ASHS Vector Logo ColorAngels Senior Home Solutions is a based-in-faith company that provides in-home healthcare and personal care services for seniors. Visit our website here or find us on Facebook or Twitter!

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