Aging is generally associated with a normal and inevitable decline in cognitive functioning which ranges from mild to moderate cognitive impairment to dementia which is severe cognitive impairment where a person fails to remember his name and recognize his family members. 50% of all those who are currently suffering from mild cognitive impairment are bound to develop the disease of forgetfulness in the next 5 years.
Alzheimer’s is the most prevent cause of dementia and it is a neurodegenerative progressive disorder that is characterized by affected memory, speech, behavioral functions and recognition abilities. Keeping in mind its gaining momentum, AD and dementia are both becoming challenges to the healthcare systems as well as the societies. Scientists and researchers say that there is still no cure for dementia but there are certainly few medicines that can reduce the severity of the symptoms of the disease or at least delay its onset. Let’s go through this post to know whether food and nutrition could help a person who’s living with this pandemic disease.
Eat well when you have Alzheimer’s disease
No, there can definitely be no special diet for a person suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia but proper nutrition level can certainly ease off the severe symptoms of the person. Are you someone who is living with a family member who has this disease? If answered yes, caregiving is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects that you have to take care of. There are small and simple ways in which you can help a person eat healthy food and enjoy the process of living with the disease.
Follow the Basics
Irrespective of whether you’re suffering from Alzheimer’s, there is always a basic rule that you need to follow while eating and this is called a healthy diet. Now that you’re taking care of a suffering person, here is a meal plan that you may help your family member with:
- Keep an array of foods in your meal plan like lots of green veggies, fruits, lean protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
- Make sure he maintains the right weight in accordance with his height and keep checking his BMI to make sure the numbers are at their proper levels. Portion sizes should be taken care of during every meal and exercises should also be a part of daily routine.
- Curb your sugar intake as sugar does more harm than good to your system.
- Cut down on foods which high cholesterol and saturated fat like fried foods and fatty meals.
- Avoid having too much of salt as this leads to water-retention n your body.
- Drink lots of water and stay hydrated.
Mind the medicines of your loved one
Did you hire aged care assistance at home? If you did, you can ask the person to make sure whether there are any drinks or foods that keeps his medications from working. In case it does, you should avoid giving such foods to your family member so as to keep him going. One more thing to keep in mind is to check whether or not there are any medicines that have an adverse impact on the person’s appetite or bowel movements. Ask the doctor to recommend medicines to ease off such side effects.
Try to keep constipation away
Did you know that there are few Alzheimer’s medicines that can lead to constipation? At the same time, your loved one might be secretly refraining from keeping himself hydrated enough. In order to keep constipation away, you have to do the following:
- Give him plenty of vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains in his diet as these are dietary sources of fiber which help keep constipation away.
- Ask him to drink enough of water and other fluids.
- Request him to stay as active as is possible for him as following a regular routine for exercise can even get his bowel movements smoother.
Resolve his dry mouth issues
A person suffering from Alzheimer’s might not drink sufficient level of water as his body will not give him any signal of thirst as it did before the diagnosis of this disease. Nevertheless, there are few medicines which can have side effects like dry mouth. So you should always set reminders for the person to drink water as this is the best and the most natural way of avoiding dry mouth. Few other effective ways to try out are:
- Dip toast, breads, crackers and cookies in mild, tea or hot chocolate to soften them and drink it with the drink that he prefers.
- Remind your loved one to take a sip of the drink after he bites on to his food as this can moisten his mouth and assist him in swallowing food.
- Add sauces or broth in his food items to make them wetter.
- Give him more of fruit ice and sour candy to help his mouth salivate more.
Take steps to check his weight
Individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia might not feel thirsty or hungry due to the side effects of the medicines they take. They can even face issues in swallowing or chewing food or holding utensils and feeding themselves. This increases the likelihood of them not eating enough and thereby losing weight. You, as a caregiver, have to make sure your loved one keeps the right weight and doesn’t go through unnecessary weight loss. Here’s how you can ensure that they get the right nutrients.
- Offer small meals and snacks more often so that they can eat at least 5-6 times in a day and get the same amount of food in intervals.
- A multivitamin capsule is a must.
- Cook foods that can be eaten easily and few such options are chicken nuggets, bite-sized finger foods, orange slices, tuna sandwiches and steamed broccoli.
- Make him focus more on high calorie items that are nutritious and rich in protein.
- Meals can be made enjoyable as this will motivate the person to eat right and eat better.
- Give him utensils that are not tough to handle so that they can easily hold them and eat. Remember that a bowl and a spoon are always better than a plate and fork.
- If he faces trouble in swallowing and chewing food items, this can lead to choking. Hence you can consult a doctor in case he faces hard time in chewing things.
- Motivate him to exercise daily as this enhances appetite. Take him for walks in the garden and make him do simple household chores.
- Sudden changes in weight and lost appetite can also be taken as symptoms of depression. Immediately take the person to a doctor.
Make mealtimes easier
When your loved one goes through the middle and later stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s, giving him too many choices, distractions, alterations in smell and taste can make eating extremely difficult for him. Here are few tips for the caregiver that might help:
- Serve him meals in quiet places where the television or radio is not switched on and where there are no other distractions.
- Don’t place too many items on the table as they can distract the person from eating and also confuse him. Keep only the utensil that the person needs for eating the meal.
- During the later stages of dementia, the individuals go through changes in spatial and visual abilities that make it tough for a person to differentiate food from the plate or plate from the table. Make sure you table is of dark color and your bowls and plates are white so that he can differentiate with ease. Don’t use patterned dishes and tablecloths.
- With the progression of the disease, the person might even fail to tell whether or not a food is hot or cold. So, you have the responsibility of checking whether or not the food or drink that you serve him is at the right temperature.
- Serve not more than one to two foods at a time as this keeps confusion away from the table.
- Allot plenty of time for the person to eat and still keep an hour extra in mind for him to finish his food.
- The person with dementia may all of a sudden develop new food choices and you should be able to respect his altering food choices no matter how hard you face to keep up with his mood swings.
- Eat together as research reveals that people usually eat better when they have other’s company.
- The person might forget that he ate something 15 minutes ago and might ask for food again. You have to remember these small details about his brain.
Encourage his independence
A person suffering from dementia may gradually become entirely dependent on a caregiver as the disease progresses with time. For professional care facilities, you may check https://www.dementiacaring.com.au/ but if you’re still the one who’s taking care of his loved one, you should always encourage him to stay independent.
- Encourage him to eat his meals on his own and give him light-weight dishes and bowls that he can carry with ease.
- Give him bite-sized foods as they can be picked up easily and also chewed with ease.
- Try out the ‘watch me’ technique where you show him how to eat a meal and he follows you actions.
- Don’t be too particular about neatness. Instead, use no-spill glasses so that you can keep him from spoiling your table mat.
5 Wonder-foods that can fight dementia – Are you sure you’re giving them?
There have been several studies which have linked eating few foods with diminished risk of suffering from dementia. Researchers in Toronto Canada are still examining the perfect combination of foods that can prevent cognitive decline. While there are some who vouch for the Mediterranean diet, there are some others who speak against this diet chart.
Nevertheless, most dieticians and food experts believe that if you eat certain quantities of the following foods that are mentioned in the list, you can certainly delay the onset of the disease or prevent the symptoms:
- Leafy green vegetables
How about making your loved one eat dark green vegetables like kale, spinach and romaine which have got brain-boosting antioxidants and Vitamin K? Try and make him eat at least a cup of all these green leafy veggies to boost his mental health.
Berries usually have a positive impact on your physical as well as your brain health. After several studies, it has been proved that blueberries contain flavonoids which activate the pathways of your brain and this is also linked with delayed aging. If you can make your loved one consume at least half a cup of berries thrice a week, you can see the improvements.
- Cruciferous veggies
Cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprout are extremely high in glucosinolates and Vitamin K due to which they have a wonderful antioxidant impact. Make sure you include at least 3 and half cup servings in your diet every week to see the effect of them on your physical and mental health.
If your loved one prefers having nuts, give him unsalted nuts as they’re high in healthy fats and antioxidants. Get him walnuts as they’re high in omega-3 fatty acids which are one of the best nutrients for the brain. Try to give him 1/4th cup of nuts or 2 spoons of nut butter every day.
Despite several researches, it is still not know what makes lentils, beans and chickpeas great for brain health. Nevertheless, most likely, they are helpful due to their combination of fibre, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. If you could at least include half a cup of beans in your diet every day, it could even be a worthy replacement of red meat that you get at least twice in a week.
Therefore, now that you’re sure about the link between nutrition and dementia, take the required steps in order to take proper care of your loved one. Help him fight dementia and lead a normal life.