Proper nutrition is critical for people with memory and cognition problems.
Nutrition has been linked to improving memory and cognition, and a poor diet has been linked to reduced cognitive function.
Diets high in fat and sugar has been shown to change certain areas of the brain that can lead to memory and cognitive impairment.
Patients with memory and cognition problems, such as dementia, have special considerations when it comes to diet and nutrition.
Patients often experience a lack of appetite, weight loss, and dehydration.
Keep reading to learn diet and nutrition tips for people with dementia and other cognitive problems.
What Causes Poor Nutrition in Dementia Patients?
There can be many causes of poor nutrition in dementia patients. A lot of the problems stem from a decrease in appetite. It may seem like they lose interest in food, but there are underlying causes that you’re not aware of.
For instance, someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s may no longer recognize food.
They may have dentures that aren’t fitted properly, causing pain when they eat. The patient may not be able to communicate this, so it’s important to visit a dentist regularly.
As people age, it is very common for their sense of smell and taste to decline. About 75% of people over the age of 80 have major declines in the ability to smell or taste food.
With Alzheimer’s disease, those senses decline even more. In this case, a patient may not be able to taste food or experience food in a way that they used to.
Medications could be another cause of poor nutrition and appetite. If you notice a decrease in appetite after a new medication or a change in dosage in a current medication, call your physician.
You also have to watch for weight gain in some dementia patients. As their olfactory senses decline, they may gravitate towards sweeter or saltier foods.
Excessive amounts of sugar and salt could lead to weight gain and high blood pressure.
Nutrition Tips for Dementia Patients
As was noted earlier, diet and nutrition play a significant role in the overall health of a person, especially if that person has memory and cognition problems.
You may have seen articles that tout the superfoods that can reverse memory loss or reverse the effects of dementia. The fact is that there isn’t one superfood that is a cure.
That being said, a healthy diet can improve behavioral symptoms in a person with dementia.
What are the components of a healthy diet?
Lean proteins, such as chicken, fish, and pork are good. Red meat is ok, in very limited amounts. Vegetables, fruit and whole grains, as well as low-fat dairy, are also part of a healthy diet.
Researchers have shown that a diet similar to the “Mediterranean Diet” is a good guideline.
That type of diet includes a lot of fish, whole grains, fruit and vegetables, and olive oil. Lean meats and red meat, in particular, is very limited.
There are also foods that should be extremely limited in use. Sodium, refined sugars, and saturated fats tend to be heavy in diets that result in poor health and nutrition.
Sodium, sugars, and saturated fats are often found in processed foods. It’s recommended to cut down on these foods, which have a lot of calories, but very little nutritional value.
If the patient likes to add salt, butter, or sugar to foods, cut down on these and use alternatives. For example, other spices can be used instead of salt.
Getting Someone with Memory and Cognition Issues to Eat
If you’re having issues trying to get someone to eat, there are things you can do to get your loved one to eat more.
The Plate Color
This may seem silly, but the color of the plate might influence how much a person eats. Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients who eat off of red plates consume 25% more food than they do off of white ones.
A decrease in appetite can also be attributed to a decrease in activity. Activity can increase a person’s metabolism, which makes them want more food to make up for the number of calories burned.
A consistently active lifestyle will help increase the appetite.
Finger Foods Work
For people with dementia, eating should be as easy as possible. As the symptoms worsen, eating with utensils can be very difficult.
Finger foods are a creative alternative to eating with utensils. They’re also a great snack and can be spread out throughout the day.
Here are some great options:
- Veggie Chips
These foods can be convenient, easy to consume and healthy.
Smaller Meals More Often
Sometimes, it’s easier to spread smaller meals and snacks out during the day, than it is to have 3 large meals.
You’ll have to find what works for you and your loved one.
Don’t Forget Fluids
It’s just as important to stay hydrated as it is to eat.
Small cups of water throughout the day will help with hydration, as will certain foods. Shakes, smoothies, fruit, and low-sodium soups can be an additional water source, too.
While someone with dementia is eating, they can easily get distracted or confused.
You’ll want to limit those distractions as much as possible. Keep the conversations at the table brief, and have only very small talk about the food itself.
You don’t want background noise like having a television on.
Ideally, you want the person to be as comfortable as possible while they eat. Make eye contact with them and have soft music on in the background.
You Don’t Have to Do It Alone
If you’re a caregiver trying to get your loved one to eat a balanced diet regularly, you’ll know that it’s not always easy.
At Season’s Memory Care Facilities, we offer state-of-the-art facilities that offer patients with memory and cognition impairments the ability to live independently and keep them safe.
Would you like to know more about how our staff can help your family?
Contact us today to schedule a tour.