Proper nutrition is an essential part of Alzheimer's care. Seniors with Alzheimer's often experience changes in their health and appetite that can compromise their ability to consume a nutritious diet. A natural decrease in the sense of taste and smell, physical and emotional challenges, and various medications can challenge the most dedicated caregiver. Learn more about how Alzheimer's can affect a senior's diet.
Alzheimer's & Appetite
There is a connection between Alzheimer's and appetite. Some seniors may experience changed likes and dislikes when it comes to foods. Dishes that used to entice them may not seem delicious anymore due to changes in smell or taste. Seniors with Alzheimer's may lose their appetite altogether.
As the disease progresses, seniors may not recognize foods anymore. They may not know how to eat them. Additionally, seniors with Alzheimer's may have difficulties with their dentures or other mouth problems that cause pain when they eat. However, these seniors may not be able to express their discomfort, causing them to avoid foods altogether.
Seniors may also have trouble swallowing and chewing, especially toward the later stage of Alzheimer's. Caregivers will need to provide foods that are easy to chew and swallow to help seniors avoid choking.
While the amount of calories consumed daily must always be taken into consideration, it is most important to ensure every bite of food offered is nutritious and void of empty calories.
Depending upon the senior's circumstances, frequent small servings of a brightly colored, cooked fruit or vegetable, or a whole grain with a touch of a healthy fat such as an avocado, almond or peanut butter may help stimulate the appetite and form the basis of a well-rounded diet.
Wild-caught salmon, skinless chicken breast (organic when possible,) and hormone free eggs are healthy proteins that nourish the aging brain. Fiber rich legumes, such as black, kidney or pinto beans, are high in antioxidants and vitamins and are increasingly recognized for their brain-boosting power.
For added nutrition, cereals can be prepared with milk rather than water, and healthy nut oils such as olive, walnut or coconut oil can be incorporated into the diet. Studies show that the flavonoids found in blueberries and strawberries help to delay memory loss.
Staying hydrated is extremely important for any senior. However, seniors with Alzheimer's may not exhibit normal signs of dehydration, making it hard to detect. To ensure that your aging loved one remains hydrated, pump fluids throughout the day, especially water.
Avoid sugary drinks. If your senior appreciates something more flavorful than a plain glass of water, there are innumerable varieties of herbal teas that may perk up taste buds and might even help with digestion issues. The MIND diet, a diet developed specifically for those with Alzheimer's, actually recommends a single glass of wine everyday.
Foods to Avoid
There are a number of foods that can impact brain health and that aren't optimal for seniors with Alzheimer's or dementia. Here are just a few:
Red meat: should be eaten no more than 4 servings a week
Butter: limit to 1 tbsp per day or replace with olive oil
Cheese: reduce intake to once a week
Fried foods: these foods tend to be extremely unhealthy
With these foods in mind, you can prepare a nutritious and delicious meal for your loved one. If you need additional assistance creating meals that your loved one will enjoy, reach out to our experts! We offer meal preparation services that help seniors get proper nutrients through foods they actually like.
For more information on how to care for your loved one with Alzheimer's, refer to our Family Caregiver's Guide to Alzheimer's & Dementia. Access all our downloadable resources by first finding your local Caring Senior Service.