The benefits of good nutrition for an Alzheimer's patient
Experts tell us that seniors with Alzheimer's disease tend to do best if they can stay in familiar surroundings, where they can maintain their long-time routine.
Today, more families are hiring professional in-home care (home care assistance) to allow their loved one to remain at home longer—whether that is in the senior's own home, the home of an adult child, or in a senior living community where the senior moved before developing memory loss.
Dementia care provided at home includes supervision and personal care such as bathing, dressing, grooming and incontinence care. It's important to hire a professional caregiver who has been trained in the special needs of seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
This includes nutritional needs, and a good time to consider the ways that in-home caregivers can help seniors with dementia continue to eat a healthy diet. While dementia doesn't change a senior's dietary needs, it does pose challenges to consuming those nutrients. Memory and thinking problems make it harder to prepare and eat a healthy diet.
The appetite decreases as taste and smell diminish—or, a person might eat too much, forgetting what they have just recently eaten. In-home professional caregivers help seniors to overcome these physical and functional challenges in several ways.
The nutritional diet of a person with Alzheimer's disease
Planning and purchasing nutritious meals and snacks that meet the senior's requirements as defined by the home care provider
Family caregivers or professional caregivers can go grocery shopping or go with the senior to make an outing. Choosing their own foods creates a sense of independence and improves the appetite of the elderly.
The professional caregiver can prepare the meals for the elderly person because perhaps he/she likes to cook but the use of the stove is not safe or she does not remember all the steps to prepare a meal. The professional caregiver can help them do what they can while providing them with vigilant supervision and assistance. Again, participating in the preparation of meals enhances the appetite.
Providing companionship during meals and helping seniors to eat
A recent study from the University of East Anglia in the UK found that socialization is a key factor in promoting good nutrition and adequate hydration for people with dementia and Alzheimer's. Most of us eat more if we do not eat alone. Having a professional caregiver as a table companion provides warmth and promotes a positive mood.
In addition, experts in dementia care offer this advice: watching another person eat reminds a person with dementia to do the same, if only by mimicry. Professional caregivers can also provide assistance to help seniors eating, if necessary.
Addressing security issues and reporting issues
Some foods are harder to eat as Alzheimer's disease progresses. The professional caregiver can be vigilant and point out problems that the elderly person may have with chewing and swallowing; in which case, it may be time to change the meal plan.
Being able to eat independently reinforces the sense of dignity of the senior and the little touches make all the difference. To prevent choking and facilitate meals, the professional caregiver can serve foods already cut into small pieces.
Coffee should be brought to the table already cooled, at a safe temperature. People with dementia take longer to finish their meal. While a family member often watches the clock not to be late at work in the morning or at lunch, a professional caregiver has plenty of time to sit patiently until the end of the meal.
Reminding elderly to drink enough fluids
With age, our thirst diminishes and dementia and Alzheimer’s make it even more difficult to become aware of the need to drink. People with dementia or Alzheimer's disease can easily develop dehydration, dry mouth and constipation. Professional caregivers regularly remind elderly to drink water and other fluids.
Avoiding foodborne illness
Home care professionals can provide housekeeping services, which is especially important in the kitchen. Family caregivers or professional caregivers can be sure that food is not out of date, that perishable foods are kept cold, that the kitchen is clean and hygienic, and that the things that elderly could confuse with food, such as drugs and cleaning products, are kept out of reach.
Providing drug reminders
People with Alzheimer's disease can take a number of medications as well as medications to control other health problems. Some of these medications can affect their appetite. The family caregiver or professional caregiver may remind the senior to take his / her medications and report a loss of appetite that may warrant a review of the medication.
Encouraging physical activity
Exercise is one of the best stimulants of appetite. The natural caregiver or professional caregiver can take a walk with the client or set up an exercise video at home. Perhaps a visit to an Alzheimer's Association or other socializing activity would be a right mood booster and whet the appetite.
The benefits of good nutrition and physical activity in the fight against Alzheimer's disease should not be neglected. You can also check out our other blog posts on Alzheimer's disease; especially on the 10 symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and the 7 stages of Alzheimer's disease.
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