Alzheimer's Disease Frequently Asked Questions
3. I'm having trouble getting my loved one to eat. What can I do?
Good nutrition is important for people with Alzheimer's disease. However, dementia can lead to poor nutrition that may be related to different reasons such as a diminished sense of hunger and thirst, problems eating or swallowing, problems using utensils or inability to self-feed, wandering problems, poor food choices, and depression. To get your loved one to eat, try some of the following:
- Talk to your loved one's doctor. Sometimes, poor appetite is due to depression, or other treatable problems.
- Don't force feed. Try to encourage the person to eat, and try to find out why they don't want to eat.
- Avoid serving non-nutritious beverages.
- Try to get your loved one to eat more protein and healthy fats and less simple sugars.
- Offer small, frequent meals and snacks.
- Encourage your loved one to walk or participate in other types of light activity to stimulate appetite.
- Consider serving finger foods that are easier for the person to handle and eat.
- Remember to treat the person as an adult, not a child. Don't punish the person for not eating.
- Serve beverages after a meal instead of before or during a meal so that your loved one doesn't feel full before beginning to eat.
- Plan meals to include your loved one's favorite foods.
- If insufficient calories is a problem, try getting your loved one to eat the high-calorie foods in the meal first.
- Use your imagination to increase the variety of food you're serving. Prepare meals that offer a variety of textures, colors, and temperatures.
- Don't serve foods that provide little or no nutritional value, such as potato chips, candy bars, colas, and other less healthy snack foods.
- Choose high-protein and high-calorie nutritious snacks.
- Make food preparation an easy task: choose foods that are easy to prepare and eat.
- Make eating a pleasurable experience, not a chore; for example, liven up your meals by using colorful place settings and/or play background music during meals.
- Try not to let your loved one eat alone. If you are unable to eat with your loved one, invite a guest.
- Use colorful garnishes such as parsley and red or yellow peppers to make food look more appealing.
4. My mother has Alzheimer's disease, and I've noticed she is getting more confused. How can I help her?
There are several things you can try to help a person who is confused:
- Try to minimize any changes in the surroundings or to your loved one's daily routine. If you have to make changes in routines, do so gradually.
- Follow simple routines and avoid situations that require the person with Alzheimer's disease to make decisions.
- Help your loved one maintain his or her orientation by describing the events for the day, reminding him or her of the date, day, time, place, etc., and repeating the names of the people with whom he or she has contact.
- Try placing large labels (with words or pictures) on drawers and shelves to identify their contents.
- Simplify or re-word your statements or requests if the person doesn't seem to understand.
- Make certain that medications are being taken regularly and at the right times.
- Provide a nutritious diet and encourage your loved one to exercise, if he or she is able.
- Be patient and supportive.