What’s On Your Loved One’s Plate? Nutrition Tips for Seniors with Alzheimer’s
Someone with Alzheimer’s disease may not be hungry or even eat enough food during the day. Why does this occur? When Dad did not seem to be hungry, we had to do some detective work to try to find a reason why he wouldn’t eat. The answer might not always be clear so take these seven possibilities into account:
Reduced appetite. Are your loved one’s current medications producing a negative result? Consult with their doctor to see if loss of appetite could be a side effect. If so, ask if there are other medications your loved one could try instead.
Missing socialization. Eating a meal often serves as a social activity. People gather around a table to chat, laugh, and enjoy good food and drink. Lonely seniors may not feel hungry and leave food on their plate.
Too much on the plate. A full plate can seem overwhelming for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Deciding where to start eating can be difficult. In this case, make things easier for the senior by serving the meal in courses. Begin with the salad, spoon out some mashed potatoes and gravy, and then offer several slices of meat.
Confusion with cutlery. While you would reach for a spoon to eat soup, seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia may grab a fork instead. Or they may choose to bypass the cutlery completely and eat with their hands. Adaptive cutlery (angled or weighted forks, knives, and spoons) can help seniors with reduced physical motor skills to eat.
Filling up on dessert. Clear the plates away before serving dessert. Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia may act like a small child – beelining for the dessert first and not having room for the meal.
If you can’t get everybody together for a family dinner with mom or dad, visit them at home or their care community in the meantime. Watch how mom or dad eats and handles a regular meal. At best, mom or dad will be able to eat independently and manage many foods. If not, bring this matter to the attention of your family, your parents’ caregiver, or their long-term care staff. Work together to encourage better nutrition for your loved one. Proper nutrition is the basis for personal health and wellness. Ensure that what’s on your loved one’s plate (and how they eat it) is a priority on your own caregiving plate.