People living in the middle and late stages of Alzheimer’s may find it challenging to eat the regular and nutritious meals. Different varieties and quantity of food on the plate can make them feel overwhelmed, confused and more forgetful. A balanced meal for an Alzheimer’s patient will initiate weight gain and will decrease the behavioral symptoms. Here are few nutrition and mealtime tips you can follow to make an Alzheimer’s patient calm and comfortable:
- A Balanced Diet with a good choice of foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, low fat dairy products and lean protein foods is the right key to a balanced physical and mental health of the Alzheimer’s patient.
- Do not include saturated fatty and cholesterol rich foods like butter, fatty cuts of meats and solid shortening food.
- Exclude processed foods, refined sugars that are high in calories and has low nutrient value. Instead you can use healthier options to manage their sweet tooth like fruit or juice-filled baked goods.
- Use less salt in the food as too much sodium in the food will result in high blood pressure, instead use spices or herbs to season the food.
- The patient should always stay hydrated, so encourage them to drink lots of water or give them fluids with high water content such as fruits, soups, milkshakes etc.
A wide range of food choice can always confuse and make it more difficult for an Alzheimer’s patient. So you can adopt the following tips to set a comfort space for an Alzheimer’s patient during their mealtimes:
- Always choose a quiet place to serve the meals, away from other distractions.
- Set a simple table with plain tablecloths, mats and even plates. The plate color should contrast the tablecloth or the placemat as similar colors might confuse the person. The entire meal setting should help the person identify and distinguish the food on the plate. Also do not fill the table with utensils and only place the necessary ones to avoid confusion. It would always be better to use white plates or bowls with a contrasting color mat.
- Always test the temperature of the food before serving as a dementia patient might not be able to express if the food is too hot or cold.
- Do not fill the plate with lots of food and limit it to two servings so that the person does not have trouble deciding among the food on his or her plate.
- Show flexibility in the food preferences and don’t keep serving the same type of food always. This is because there are chances that the patient might reject foods and would prefer something new or different.
- Do not hurry the patient and keep in mind that it can take an hour or more for the patient to finish his or her meal.
- Do not isolate the patient and allow him or her to eat with others. Encourage them to socialize and this can result in a great improvement in their health.
- Keep feeding the patient repetitively as he or she might not remember if they had their meal. They might keep asking for breakfast or the other meals, so consider serving them multiple times.
Last but not the least encourage the patient to be independent and confident especially during the middle phases of the disease. You can do that by following the tips below:
- Serve dishes in user friendly utensils such as a plate with protective edges or a spoon with a small handle. Also you can allow the person to use his or her hand if they feel comfortable or easy that way.
- Serve bite friendly food such as chicken nuggets, sandwiches, steamed broccoli etc. Or arrange the food is an easy pattern so that the person is able to self-serve without depending on anyone.
- Exhibit the eating pattern by placing the utensil in the patient’s hand and help them to lift the food to their mouth for a bite.
- Ensure to give enough space and user friendly utensils so that the person becomes comfortable feeding themselves. For eg: use a non-slippery surface to place your plates and bowls. Also do not fill the cup or glass till the brim as it might spill and dirty the place. You can also give the patient bendable straws to drink their fluids or water.
These small changes that you adopt can bring about commendable improvements in the mental and physical health of an Alzheimer’s/dementia patient.