Keeping Nutrition and Hydration Levels Up with Dementia & Alzheimer’s
Paying attention to difficulties with eating and drinking
Any number of factors can make eating and drinking challenging for those suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia. Problems with memory, mental health, mobility, and strength can impact accessibility and the ability to eat or make meals for oneself. We may not immediately notice if changes are only gradual.
Also, if a loved one has trouble swallowing or is experiencing poor oral health but cannot (or does not) vocalize any pain or discomfort, it’s not always easy to know how to help. Some of the following may be helpful.
Let the professionals help
As a caregiver, it’s key to avoid trying to take everything on yourself. Keeping on top of doctor’s appointments, physical therapy sessions, exercise, and mental health care gets other eyes on the bigger picture, so comprehensive plans of action can be assessed. Professionals can assist you in proactively spotting and addressing new underlying concerns that affect eating and drinking.
Personality changes, medication changes, lack of memory, fluctuating moods, anxiety, and depression can influence appetite and ability in various ways. Some prefer specific meals one moment and refuse them the next. Professional advice can help you determine the difference between having to make last-minute adjustments or take a more serious approach.
Have a backup plan
Keep a variety of snacks and nutrient-dense meal replacements around. Meal planning and prepping in advance can also work for some families. If drinking water and getting proper electrolytes is a struggle for someone you’re caring for, try a new water bottle equipped with a built-in straw or another easy drinking mechanism. Squeezing citrus juice into the water can add some flavor and electrolytes.
Add variety in small ways
Sometimes the problem is less disruptive but can still affect overall nutrition. For example, a loved one’s concept of time could be distorted or their ideal time to eat isn’t compatible with yours or the family’s. Or maybe they just want to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for every meal and it’s not easy to break the habit or insert alternatives. Maybe adding sliced apple to that PB&J is something they’d go for or adding veggies into their favorite pasta or casserole dishes.
Remember self-care along the way
As caregivers sometimes we forget how important our own health and well-being are. Not only is it important for our own longevity, but also to those we are responsible for. Don’t forget to take a break and consider entrusting your loved one to an outside caregiver or another family member whenever possible. It makes a huge difference in your effectiveness as a caregiver and could be stimulating and meaningful for who you care for.
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