Anyone struggling with dementia is at a greater risk of malnutrition due to a lack of eating. Not eating may result from a loss of appetite and/or simply forgetting to eat. Unfortunately, isolation and lack of social activity may lead to depression in seniors, creating another contributing factor to a lack of eating. Nutrition plays a vital role in anyone’s health and well-being.
When your loved one is suffering from a degenerative neural condition like dementia, getting an adequate amount of macro and micronutrients through their diet is highly important. While it is not uncommon for older adults to have a natural decline in hunger and thirst due to decreased metabolic function, it is still important they receive an array of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Good nutrition for older adults can potentially stave off the progression of dementia. It’s important to monitor your loved one and ensure they are eating enough. The following tips are meant to assist you with the nutritional oversight of your loved one.
Before diving in, always be sure to keep good communication with doctors and medical staff to spot any concerns related to their eating and nutrition. While doing so, consider adopting the following tips in your strategy.
Encouraging Proper Nutrition and Adequate Eating for Loved Ones with Dementia
As you read these helpful tips, remember to always make mealtime an approachable experience with nutrient-dense foods. Developing a positive association with food is important when dealing with the cooperation of your loved one. With that said, let’s take a look at our first tip!
Tip #1: Have a Meal Plan and Prepare in Advance
Older adults experiencing memory loss, depression, or chronic mental health conditions may feel overwhelmed with the task of cooking. It’s good to help in this area by developing a good quality meal plan and prepping in advance. Make it easy for your loved one to get the food they need for every meal. This may involve portioning out the servings and writing easy-to-follow instructions with re-heat times.
Tip #2: Embrace the Flavorful Advantage of Different Herbs and Spices
Dull, flavorless and bland foods are not appetizing to many people. Although you may be sensitive to strong flavors, you can still add different spices and herbs to improve the taste for your loved one. Cooking with more garlic and onion might just be what they need to enjoy the dish. For a sweeter taste, consider adding cinnamon, nutmeg, honey or cloves. But as always, discuss these different spices and herbs options with your loved one’s doctor or nutritionist.
Tip #3: Establish Regular Mealtimes
Another tip is to establish regular mealtimes. The predictability of a schedule is just as important at older ages as it is with small children. Regular mealtimes help encourage your aging loved one to eat. The body’s natural hunger tunes into a regular schedule as a normal part of our biology. When you have regular eating times with the help of alarms or phone calls, your loved one is more likely to conform to an eating schedule and feel hungry at those times.
Tip #4: Dine with Your Loved One
Since older adults suffering from dementia often struggle with loneliness and depression, try to make mealtime a bonding opportunity. Eating with other family members and friends can mean a lot. If you’re not able to make mealtime, try to secure someone who is available to eat with your loved one. Eating alone is not healthy for anyone’s mental and emotional well-being, especially when it is common and long-term.
Tip #5: Food Visibility Helps Appetite
Just as when you are on a diet and you want to avoid food to prevent overeating, the same works in reverse. Making food a visible and available go-to option encourages better dietary intake. Make sure healthy snacks are easy to grab and open on shelves that don’t require much effort. For example, have pre-sliced apples ready to eat in the refrigerator or fresh fruit on the countertops. Visual reminders to eat are always helpful when working towards preventing missed meals and malnutrition.
Tip #6: Always Keep Food On Hand
Finally, when you have plans to go to an event or run errands with your loved one, keep food on hand or include plans to stop and eat. Implementing food in your times together is an easy way to encourage more eating and keep your loved one nutritionally sustained. If you’re leaving a doctor’s appointment, swing by and pick up your loved one’s favorite food to take home.
These are just some of the many tips out there to help you assist your loved one with better nutritional intake. Even by implementing just one of these tips, you should see a significant improvement. Remember to always associate mealtime with positive and loving memories together as much as possible. Bon appetit!
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