How to Eat Well With Alzheimer's Disease

There’s no special diet for people with Alzheimer's disease, but good nutrition can ease some symptoms and help them feel good. When you’re caring for someone with the condition, there are simple ways you can make eating healthier, easier, and more enjoyable.

Remember the Basics

The basic rules of a healthy diet apply to everyone, whether they have Alzheimer’s or not. Build a meal plan that helps your loved one:

Mind the Medications

Ask your loved one’s health care team if there are any foods or drinks that can keep the medicines she takes from working.

Also check if any of the meds affect her appetite, bowel movements, or cause other problems that can affect her nutrition. Her doctor may be able to change the dose or suggest another drug that will ease side effects.

Preventing Constipation

Some Alzheimer’s medications can cause constipation. It can also happen if someone doesn’t eat or drink enough. Make sure your loved one:

  • Gets plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in her diet. These are great sources of fiber, which can help curb constipation.
  • Drinks enough water and other fluids.
  • Stays active. Exercise can help get things moving in the bathroom, too.

Ease Dry Mouth

Someone with Alzheimer’s may not drink enough water because her body's signal for thirst isn’t as strong as it was. Some medicines can dry out her mouth, too. Remind your loved one to drink water, and try other ways to avoid dry mouth:

  • Dunk breads, toast, cookies, or crackers in milk, hot chocolate, or tea to soften them.
  • Remind her to take a drink after each bite of food to moisten her mouth and help her swallow.
  • Add broth or sauces to foods to make them softer and wetter.
  • Offer sour candy or fruit ice to help her mouth make more saliva.

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Watch for Weight Loss

People with Alzheimer’s may feel less hungry or thirsty, have problems chewing or swallowing, have trouble using utensils or feeding themselves, or make bad food choices. This raises the chance that they won’t eat enough and will lose too much weight.

To help your loved one keep up her weight and get the right nutrients:

  • Offer smaller meals or snacks more often. Eating five or six times a day may be easier than getting the same amount of food in three meals.
  • Give her a daily multivitamin.
  • Help her focus on the more nutritious, higher-calorie foods in the meal first.
  • Prepare things that are easy to eat. Good options are bite-sized finger foods, like chicken nuggets, tuna sandwiches, orange slices, and steamed broccoli.
  • Make meals enjoyable. If lunch or dinner is a social event, she may look forward to it and eat better.
  • Trouble chewing or swallowing could be a choking risk, so talk to her doctor if she has a hard time. He can recommend a special diet or foods that are easier to eat.
  • Use utensils or dishes that are easier to handle. A spoon and bowl may be betterthan a fork and plate.
  • Exercise can boost appetite. Encourage your loved one to take walks, garden, or do simple chores to stay active.
  • Not feeling hungry and weight changes can also be signs of depression. Talk to her doctor if you think this might be a problem.

If you need help building a meal plan, a dietitian can help you find ways to make eating healthy and easy for your loved one. Ask the doctor to recommend one.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on April 14, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Alzheimer's Association Campaign for Quality Residential Care: "Dementia Care Practice Recommendations for Assisted Living Residences and Nursing Homes."

Alzheimer's Disease Education & Referral Center: "Caregiver Guide."

Cleveland Clinic: "Nutrition for Alzheimer's Disease."

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