Dining with Dementia: Nutrition Tips for Your Loved One’s Health

While there is no unique diet for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, experts at the Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Association tell us that good nutrition is especially important to their physical and emotional health. Proper nutrition keeps the body strong and healthy.

For persons with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, poor nutrition can increase behavioral symptoms, such as anxiety and agitation, and may also result in weight loss. Proper hydration is also very important to your loved one’s comfort and well-being.

Important Nutrition Tips for Loved Ones with Dementia

These useful nutrition tips can benefit your loved one’s health and general well-being:

  • Provide a balanced diet with a variety of foods – Offer vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein foods.
  • Limit foods with high saturated fat and cholesterol – Some fat is essential for health – but not all fats are equal. Go light on fats that are bad for heart health such as butter, solid shortening, lard and fatty cuts of meat.
  • Cut down on refined sugars – Refined sugars, often found in processed foods, contain calories but lack vitamins, minerals and fiber. You can satisfy your loved one’s sweet tooth with healthier options like fruit or juice-sweetened baked goods. Note, however, that in the later-stages of Alzheimer's, if loss of appetite is a problem, adding sugar to foods may encourage eating.
  • Limit foods with high sodium and use less salt – Most people in the United States consume too much sodium, which negatively affects blood pressure. Cut down by using spices or herbs to season food as an alternative.
  • Keep your loved one hydrated – Staying hydrated may be a problem. Encourage fluid intake by offering small cups of water or other liquids throughout the day or provide foods with high water content such as fruit, soups, milkshakes and smoothies.
  • Give them plenty of time to eat – Remind your loved one to chew and swallow carefully. Keep in mind that it may take them an hour or longer to finish eating.
  • Eat together – Make meals an enjoyable social event so everyone looks forward to the experience. Research suggests that people eat better when they are in the company of others.

Coping with Common Problems

The article “How to Eat Well with Alzheimer's Disease,” offers some useful advice for dealing with some of the more common problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease and nutrition. These include:

  • Preventing Dehydration – Persons with Alzheimer’s may not drink enough because their body's signal for thirst isn’t as strong as those who don’t have the disease. Medications can sometimes dry out their mouth,as well. Remind your loved one to drink liquids, and try other ways to avoid dry mouth:
    • Dunk breads, toast, cookies, or crackers in milk, hot chocolate, or tea to help soften them.
    • Remind them to take a drink after each bite of food to moisten her mouth and help them swallow.
    • Add broth or sauces to foods to make them softer and wetter.
    • Offer sour candy or fruit ice to help their mouth make more saliva.
  • Preventing Constipation – Some Alzheimer’s medications can cause constipation. It can also happen if someone doesn’t eat or drink enough. Make sure your loved one:
    • Gets plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in their diet. These are great sources of fiber, which can help curb constipation.
    • Drinks enough water and other fluids.
    • Stays active. Exercise can help get things moving in the bathroom, too.
  • Countering Weight Loss – People with Alzheimer’s may feel less hungry or thirsty, have problems chewing or swallowing and have trouble using utensils and feeding themselves. This raises their chances of weight loss. To help your loved one maintain their weight and get proper nutrition:
    • Offer smaller meals or snacks more often. Eating five or six times a day may be easier than getting the same amount of food in three larger meals.
    • Give them a daily multivitamin to fill nutritional gaps.
    • Prepare things that are easy to eat (e.g. bite-sized finger foods, such as chicken nuggets).
    • Use utensils or dishes that are easier to handle such as a spoon and bowl.

A Dining Experience that is Nutritious, Delicious and Social

Cindy Bird, Dining Services Director, says, “Dining at Clarity Pointe is a social event! All meals are tasteful, nutritious and served family-style to create a real feel of home. Our Direct Care staff not only serves the meals, they also sit and dine with the residents. And, of course, family members are always welcome to join us!”

“Mealtimes are ideal opportunities for our residents and staff to gather together, enjoy one another’s company and feel the warmth of friendship. If necessary, the staff members provide cueing help for successful dining.”

“Recognizing that our residents’ needs will change as their memory loss progresses, we offer four highly specialized dining programs that accommodate their unique needs for a successful dining experience.”

Clarity Pointe … Our Difference Is Clear

Clarity Pointe’s Specialized Memory Care “Living” Neighborhoods are truly changing lives for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – and for those who love them. At Clarity Pointe, our mission is to ensure our residents lead connected and rewarding lives.

Unlike other providers that offer a secure memory care wing in a skilled nursing or assisted living center, Clarity Pointe offers freestanding, purpose-built memory care communities that are solely and entirely dedicated to Memory Care Assisted Living. Our communities blend luxurious surroundings with specialized care that is individualized to each resident and delivered by a compassionate, expert team of professionals.

We stay current on the latest trends and advancements in Alzheimer’s care and implement them into our residents’ care plans. Always moving forward, we combine the latest in evidence-based programming with luxurious, residential living and compassionate respectful care.

For each of our residents, we offer a life that is engaging, fulfilling, inspiring and meaningful.

To learn more today about the Clarity Pointe Difference contact us today!