A challenge for caregivers of loved ones with dementia is providing them with food that they will eat. Either they become uninterested in food (sometimes due to the changes in their sense of smell) or they only want to eat unhealthy snacks--high in sugar or salt. Weight loss or weight gain can be side effects of dementia.
Good nutrition promotes health, emotional wellbeing, and independence. The better a person eats, the better he or she feels. Dementia, however, complicates eating. Not enough food and drink can contribute to mental confusion; too much food to lethargy, discomfort, and decreased physical activity.
Food preferences may change as dementia progresses. A favorite food may become unwanted, and new foods may now be attractive.
When and where our loved ones want to eat may also change. They might prefer a bigger meal midday now when they always liked it later before. While dining at the family table with others was always our habit, perhaps eating alone while watching a favorite television show in a comfortable chair with a tv table becomes the new norm for our loved one.
Being sensitive to changing tastes and habits and responding to those dietary needs are crucial.
As communication skills decline, people with dementia will find it harder to let their caregivers know what foods or drinks they might want. The Social Care Institute for Excellence in the UK suggests several good approaches in handling these challenges:
Make snacks and drinks easily accessible and visible so that people with dementia can take what they want when they are hungry or thirsty or they can point to what they want without having to ask.
Offer smaller portions of food more often rather than larger meals.
Provide flavorful, tasty foods to compensate for the decreased sense of smell and taste that often comes with dementia.
Have healthy foods readily available--sliced or dried fruits--rather than high calorie snack foods to avoid weight gain.
Among Friends makes sure that our participants have a healthy lunch while they are with us. A personal caterer prepares nutritious soups and homemade bread specifically for our program and always provides a variety of fresh fruits. While we give way to our cravings occasionally--baking cookies or apple crumbles or making delicious cheesecake--our participants enjoy good food lovingly prepared.
If you have a loved one with dementia who would like to join us, call us at (715) 293-2561 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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