Health Diet – Ensuring a Balanced Diet for People With Alzheimers Disease: A person with this condition can have many mood swings and behavioral changes and these can cause problems with their nutrition. Due to the fact that they are agitated, apathetic and anxious [to name but a few] their ability to eat will be inhibited and they will end up with an unbalanced diet which will impact on their health. Watching their fluid intake is also very important as this could lead to dehydration which could cause some serious problems.
With Alzheimer’s Disease a person can live for many years, it is important that we keep them healthy as dealing with the dementia is hard enough without having to deal with the other problems that will pop up due to bad nutrition. As the caregiver – be it in an institution via a nurse or at your home with you as the caregiver – the aim is to keep them healthy and ensure their well being.
A balanced diet is important and should contain:
* and minerals
This is to provide the correct nutrients to insure tissue and cell repair as well as keeping the organs functioning properly. A break down of a good healthy diet is – Carbo = 50%, fats = 30% and protein = 20%.
Responding to their mood swings and behavior during meals
1) Be patient
2) Encourage their food intake by trying out new strategies and ideas of how to get them to eat and drink
3) If they get easily distracted, try minimizing any external stimuli. This could be done by facing them towards a wall rather than the window or any other area of activity. This will help with their attention span when sitting down for a meal.
4) If they are to agitated or anxious to sit down, take their food to them and encourage them to eat even though you might have to follow them around with the food.
5) Health drinks and food bars [containing protein] are available if you find that they are not eating adequately, these could be given as a snack between meals to assist with balancing their diet
Eating and dementia
Remember people at different stages in this disease will have different needs at different times and we will need to adjust their diet accordingly.
Ensure that any dramatic change in their health is not due to an illness, they also tend to get ill, just like people without Alzheimer’s. Keep an eye out for these pretty common ones as they can cause a patient to stop eating and lose weight:
* Urinary tract infection
* and other medical problems
The most common one above is constipation, probably due to low fluid intake. This can cause the patient to be reluctant to eat due to discomfort, ensure that they have fruits and vegetables that contain roughage, plenty fluids and regular exercise.
Remember that some patients might have ethical or cultural needs when it come to their food, you would not offer meat to a vegetarian for example. Be aware of these needs and try accommodate them as much as possible. [this will not be a problem if you are looking after your own parent, but if you work in an institution you will need to be aware of this].
Encourage the patient to feed themselves, this might take longer than if you feed them but it helps maintain the persons dignity and will give them a feeling of independence.
Ensure the patient has good oral hygiene, mouth infections could occur from a neglected mouth which could lead to more medical problems.
In the final stages many have difficulty opening their mouths, chewing and swallowing their food, so change to a soft diet or diet supplements to assist them with the intake of good nutrition.
Patients with Alzheimer disease are probably the hardest to take care of, so for all the families and caregivers out there – I salute you!!