Proper Nutrition Tips for Seniors with Alzheimer’s
Seniors who are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease do not require a special diet. What they need is a well-balanced, nutritious diet to keep them strong and healthy. Proper nutrition is necessary to keep them from having behavioral symptoms or weight loss. Here are some basic nutrition tips for seniors with Alzheimer’s:
Have a Balanced Diet Offering a Healthy Selection of Foods
Avoid foods that lead to memory loss and eat more of the foods that will help boost memory. A good set of healthy options including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein foods are recommended for a well-balanced diet. Some of the foods that are good for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease include green leafy vegetables, salmon and other cold-water fish, dark-skinned fruits, berries, coffee, chocolate, extra virgin olive oil, and cold-pressed virgin coconut oil. While some fat is vital for health, there are those which are bad for heart health and should be avoided, like butter, solid shortening, and fatty cuts of meats.
Foods to Avoid
Refined Sugars. Refined sugars are usually found in processed foods. They contain calories but lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber. If your senior is craving sweet foods, there are other healthier options available for them, like fruit or juice-sweetened baked goods. During the later stages of Alzheimer’s, if your senior has lost their appetite, adding sugar to their food may encourage them to eat.
White Foods. According to a research conducted by Dr. Suzanne M. de la Monte, a professor of Neuropathology and lab medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and one of the world’s leading Alzheimer’s researchers, eating white foods is connected to Alzheimer’s, causing a spike in the production of insulin in the body and send toxins to the brain. Avoid eating white foods like white rice, white bread, white sugar, cakes, and pasta.
Processed Foods. The study conducted by Dr, de la Monte also found that processed cheeses like mozzarella sticks build up proteins in the body which are associated with Alzheimer’s. Processed meats, such as bacon, smoked turkey, and ham contain nitrosamines which cause the liver to produce fats which are toxic to the brain.
Microwave Popcorn. A recent study by Robert Vince, PhD, a drug-design expert and his colleagues from University of Minnesota found that diacetyl which is present in microwave popcorn causes beta amyloid proteins to clump together and build up in the brain, which causes or heightens Alzheimer’s disease.
Serving Meals to Seniors with Alzheimer’s
Eliminate distractions. Serve meals in a place where it is quiet, away from distractions such as the television. Do not place unnecessary items on the table which may distract or confuse them, such as flowers, artificial fruits, and other ornaments. Only place utensils needed for the meal.
Use white plates. It may be difficult for seniors with Alzheimer’s to distinguish food from the plate or the plate from the table, so it is suggested that you use white plates and bowls to make this easier for them. Having a contrasting color placemat will also help. Avoid using dishes, tablecloths, and placemats with patterns.
Serve food and drinks at the right temperature. People with Alzheimer’s may not be able to determine if their food or drink is too hot, so always check their food and drinks before serving these to them and make sure that they are just about the right temperature.
Limit your serving to one or two foods at a time. Being offered too many choices all at once may be overwhelming for older people with Alzheimer’s. It is best to serve them one dish at a time.
Be flexible to their food preferences. People with Alzheimer’s may suddenly develop new food preferences, so take note of these while maintaining a running list of their food choices.
Give your senior plenty of time to eat. It may take about an hour or even longer for a senior patient or loved one to finish their meal. Do not rush them and remind them to chew their food well.
Have meals together. Make it more enjoyable for your senior to eat their meals by eating together. Research suggests that people with Alzheimer’s tend to have better appetite when they eat their meals with other people.
Serve meals whenever requested. A senior with Alzheimer’s may not remember if they have eaten their meals already, so be prepared to serve several meals when asked.
Encouraging Independence in Seniors with Alzheimer’s
Serve finger foods. Offer bite-sized foods that are easy to pick up. Finger foods like fish sticks, chicken nuggets, and sliced sandwiches will make it more convenient for them to eat by themselves.
Adapt serving dishes and utensils. Make eating meals easier by serving food in a bowl instead of a plate. You may also use a plate which has rims or protective edges. Using a spoon with a large handle may be easier to hold than a fork. If your senior prefers to eat using their hands, let them do so.
“Watch me“. If the senior finds it difficult to eat by themselves, try showing them how to take their meals first before your offer to help them.