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7 Tips for Making Eating with Alzheimer’s Easier

7 Tips for Making Eating with Alzheimer’s Easier

Mealtimes don't have to be a struggle, too

Living with Alzheimer's is hard, mealtime doesn't have to be.

It is funny how the words "food" and "comfort" often appear in the same sentence. Many of the milestones in our lives revolve around food, and it's often used as a platform to make a connection with someone we love. When times are good or bad, there is something cathartic about breaking bread together. And while there are many changes that occur in the life of an Alzheimer’s patient, the need for a good meal never waivers.

Click here to see the 7 Tips for Making Eating with Alzheimer’s Easier (Slideshow)

What does change about the day-to-day routine is the way a patient and caregiver experience food. Suddenly, favorite foods seem like mysterious dishes, and those with Alzheimer's often can’t remember what they ate or if they even liked it. But navigating mealtime with an Alzheimer’s patient should be the last thing a caregiver is worried about when the future is already filled with what-ifs. The simple steps you can take when preparing or serving a meal for a patient can make a worl of difference, You just have to consider all of the details, from the company sitting at the table, to the types of dishware you use. Every small thing counts.

With the help of the Alzheimer’s Association, we’ve come up with a few tips and tricks for making mealtime an easier experience. Click through the slideshow to start making mealtime easier!


7 Tips for Easier Mealtimes for Dementia Patients

A seemingly simple task such as eating can eventually become a challenging and combative task for those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Eating healthy, fuelling meals is a challenge on its own for most seniors, but it becomes especially difficult when your loved one forgets to eat, or a decline in motor skills makes it hard to use utensils.

Patients can become extremely dependent on their caregivers, which is why it is crucial to develop a plan to alleviate some of the mealtime hassles. Here are some tips to help make mealtime with your loved one easier.

PROVIDE SEVERAL SMALL MEALS INSTEAD OF THREE LARGE ONES

With Alzheimer’s and dementia, it can be common to forget when or how to eat properly. Even identifying sensations of hunger can become a challenge. Breaking up mealtimes into smaller meals throughout the day can make it easier to ensure your loved one is getting a balanced diet. Smaller meals and snacks are also easier and faster to consume and present less of a hurdle than sitting through a large meal.

PROVIDE SIMPLE MEAL CHOICES

Your loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s may become overwhelmed and frustrated with a wide assortment of meal choices., they, It may even result in refusal to eat. When plating portions, try to aim for having no more than 2 to 3 different options and be sure to keep the portions themselves small as noted above.

ALLOW MORE TIME FOR EVERY MEAL

Those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s tend to require more time to perform functions we normally take for granted, including eating. Provide your loved one with at least an hour to enjoy their meal.

REMINDERS, WHILE MAINTAINING INDEPENDENCE

Sometimes, your loved one may lose track of how they are supposed to eat a specific portion or perform functions such as cutting meat. If you are eating with them and notice that they’re struggling, try to get their attention and demonstrate what they ought to do next without making them feel foolish. Resist the urge to feed them yourself because you want to respect their individuality. They’ll eventually pick up on what they ought to do next and perform the action themselves.

SUPPLEMENT MEALS WITH HEALTHY SHAKES AND DRINKS

If your loved one is unable to meet their nutritional requirements through normal meals, it may be necessary to take dietary supplements to get enough protein, fiber, and vitamins. If your loved one has difficulty eating food or refuses to eat, consider swapping out some meals for healthy drinks that are high in protein and dense in calories. For example, consider using heavy cream instead of milk in coffee and tea for a boost in calories, or protein powder blended with fresh fruit for that healthy boost each day. Speak with your loved one’s health care practitioner for recommendations. This is especially important if your loved one has health complications such as diabetes or high blood pressure that necessitate a special diet.

MAKE EATING EASY FOR THEM

Using utensils can become a challenge as dementia or Alzheimer’s progresses. But you can alleviate that problem by adding more finger-friendly foods. You can try items such as sliced veggies and fruits, sandwiches, and cheese cubes. For loved ones with more advanced stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, switch to soft, bite-sized foods or even meals that are pureed.

ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS

When it’s time to eat, eliminating distractions such as the TV or radio can allow your loved one to focus more on the task of eating. Try to form a habit of turning off any distractions until after meals have been finished.


The MIND Diet

Like the weight loss diet, vegan diet, vegetarian diet, raw food diet and many other crazy diets, there is a pretty much simple diet we all can follow for a good brain function- The MIND Diet, the short form for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet. The MIND diet is a healthy hybrid of two proven diets- DASH and Mediterranean. The MIND diet is ranked #1 in America’s easiest to follow diet and #2 in Best Diets overall by U.S. News & World Report. The researcher’s at Rush University of Medical Center developed the diet and you could see more about the diet here.

In MIND Diet, there is no daily calorie limit, specific meal times, rules on snacking. There is no tough guidelines to follow. You have lots of freedom to eat the food you love, but in moderate quantities. The diet just focuses on increasing the intake of brain healthy foods. The diet claims to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s by 53% if followed rigorously and by 35% in moderate followers. The added benefit of the diet is the possible weight loss. Although the MIND diet study was not focused on weight loss, by avoiding the added sugar, pastries and dairy products you may also be able to take off some pounds.


5 things you need to know about caregiving for a parent with Alzheimer’s

If your mental health is suffering , it’s time to seek emotional support from your close ones! Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

Ever wondered how difficult life becomes for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease? It is not just the patients, it gets hard for people who take care of them too.

According to the National Health Service (NHS) of the United Kingdom, Alzheimer’s is thought to be caused by the abnormal build-up of proteins in and around the brain cell. A protein called amyloid begins to deposit, forming plaques around brain cells. Another protein named tau also contribute, forming tangles within the brain cells.

The NHS, however, also says the actual cause of Alzheimer’s hasn’t been found yet.

Oblivious about this disease? Well, we’ve got you covered
In a person afflicted by Alzheimer’s or dementia, chemical messengers, or neurotransmitters, involved in sending messages or signals between brain cells see a dip. Gradually, different areas of the brain start to shrink.

A person who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s starts to forget things, their power to retain and recall decreases, and they often ask the same thing at a regular intervals considering that they are asking it for the first time.

There is no denying that if you are taking care of a person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, your responsibility increases as the disease progresses. All you need to do is to keep calm and continue to take care.

If you have anyone in your family suffering from Alzheimer’s, then here are five ways that will help you take care of them.

1. Be compassionate
People with dementia are more likely to get confused and dazed about a number of things. Compassion and empathy become important while taking care of patients.

Love and compassion can make things easier for those suffering from Alzheimer’s. Image courtesy: Shutterstock.

2. Be realistic
Dementia patients have both good and bad days. As a caregiver, one has to realise that it will hold true for an Alzheimer’s patient throughout their life and thus has to realistically foster the good days.

3. Be patient
Some forms of dementia like Pick’s disease cause personality changes. Patients undergo neurological decline, thus developing behavioural issues and moods. Caregivers have to keep in mind that they need to handle such situations with calm.

4. Be ready with a future plan
Family caregivers should prepare for a time when their loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s will need professional help. This involves both financial and logistical planning.

5. Be supportive
Do not be embarrassed of having an Alzheimer’s patient at home and never be afraid to ask for help. Support groups are immensely helpful.

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Healthy Eating While Caregiving

by Chef Daniel Thomas, AARP Healthy Living Chef, AARP, November 8, 2017

Planning ahead and making multiple servings of simple healthy meals are important time-savers for caregivers on the go, according to chef Daniel Thomas.

When you’re a caregiver, taking care of yourself can sometimes fall by the wayside. But keeping yourself healthy is equally important. If you don't eat healthy, your mind isn’t as sharp as it needs to be for the people who need you most. When I was a caregiver for both my grandparents and later for my aunt, I was able to work a healthy-eating routine into my life. Here’s how you can, too.

Always eat breakfast

Eating breakfast is a key part of getting through a morning routine as a caregiver. Without this meal, you can get lethargic and make a bad food decision because you merely want something fast later in the day. But you shouldn’t eat just anything for breakfast. Make sure whatever you have has protein to give you some long-term energy eggs and turkey sausage are excellent choices.

Keep snacks on hand

We all get hungry in between meals sometimes, especially when we’re using a lot of our energy to look after someone. That’s why it’s important to have healthy snacks available. Nuts, such as almonds and cashews, are great, as are crackers with peanut butter.

Maintain good portion control

If you eat too much, you can get sluggish. There are simple ways to trim down your portions. If you’re eating a sandwich for lunch, cut one slice of bread in half, instead of using two. If you’re having a bagel or muffin in the morning, eat half and save the rest for the next day. And when you’re dining out, have the server box up half your meal for you to take home. Restaurant portions are often bigger than necessary, and a lot of times, one order can make two servings. By having half your meal boxed up before it is brought out, you won’t be tempted to eat all of it when it’s served. It takes our brain about 20 minutes to feel full, so even if you think you’re still hungry after finishing a meal, just wait and your hunger will dissipate.

Sometimes “healthy” just means “healthier”

You don’t have to be perfect when trying to eat healthy as a caregiver, but try to stay away from processed foods, eat whole grains, and stick to vegetables, whether they’re frozen or fresh. Frozen vegetables are especially versatile because you can use them in cooking and put them into smoothies without having to add ice, which waters them down.

Prepare meals ahead of time

Caregiving means being on the move, so often we don’t have the time to spend cooking and preparing a meal for our loved ones and ourselves. That’s why it’s crucial to plan ahead and make multiple servings of simple healthy meals that you can grab and take with you. One of the best and easiest foods to prepare ahead of time is boiled eggs. They’re packed with protein, and you can boil a dozen at a time. You can also prepare a big batch of soup or stew to stick in the fridge, or freeze to keep long term. Below is a great chicken soup recipe that’s easy to make on the stove top or in a Crock-Pot.

Use an electric cooking pot

Caregiving can be a full-time job, so it’s important to use tools that let us focus on our loved ones. You can leave a Crock-Pot on overnight, and in the morning have lunch or dinner readily available to serve, sometimes for more than one day. And there’s a bonus: A long-simmering meal is one of the best smells there is.

Here’s one of my favorite Crock-Pot recipes that’s hearty, healthy and easy.

Slow & Low Lentil Soup

2 cups dried lentils
8 cups vegetable stock
2 small Spanish onions, diced
3 celery spears, chopped very small
1 whole carrot, chopped
1 whole bay leaf — dry (in the spice aisle of a grocery store)
9 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried leaf oregano
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme sprigs
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional—add to vegetable stock in the beginning, if used)
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro (optional—add to vegetable stock, if used)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped (optional—add at the end, 5 minutes before serving, if used)
1/4 lemon, cut into a wedge
1 medium fresh tomato, chopped small

Preparation:
Soak lentils overnight if you do not have enough time, soak for 2 hours.

Rinse lentils and drain soaking water. Place in cooker. Add 8 cups of vegetable stock and remaining ingredients except tomatoes, parsley and lemon. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or overnight. Add tomatoes.

Turn to high and cook 15 minutes longer, until hot. Squeeze the lemon wedge into the soup before serving. You can also add some parsley 5 minutes before it is to be served. If you want to really bring out all the flavors before you add them to the pot, get a medium sauté pan and heat it on medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, and add all of your ingredients except the lemon, tomato and half of the salt, and sauté for 3 minutes, then add to your pot.

Chicken Noodle-Cilantro-Lime-Garlic Soup, Low and Slow Style

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup onion, chopped
7 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/3 cup celery, chopped
5 ounces cooked chicken breast, chopped
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup vegetable broth
1/8 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground or cracked pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
1/4 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
1 cup egg noodles, cooked

Place a medium pot on the stove. Turn your flame or heat dial to medium. Add extra-virgin olive oil and toss in onion, garlic, carrots and celery, and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add chicken and broths, plus oregano, kosher salt, black pepper, parsley, basil, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf and hot sauce (optional). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 1 hour. Let sit 3 minutes before serving.

Add cooked egg noodles to each separate bowl and pour the soup on top of the noodles. (If you have leftovers and reheat them, your noodles will not turn into mush.) When done, stir in lime juice and cilantro right before serving.

Place uncooked chicken and all other ingredients, except the cooked noodles, into the pot. Set on medium heat and let cook for 4 hours or until chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve with noodles.

In a small soup pot, heat 4 cups of water to a boil add noodles. Cook for 7 to 8 minutes and stir every 2 minutes, or until tender. Cool under running water, drain and set to the side until needed. To make sure the noodles don't stick to one another while they cool, either lightly spray them with nonstick cooking spray and stir, or mix in 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil.


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Eating Tips for Alzheimer’s Disease

The typical signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are related to memory loss and cognitive abilities. We never think about the other things that come along with the disease. One of these major changes that can be a cause for concern and a separate health risk is dietary changes and eating habits. Alzheimer’s and Dementia: a Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, published a study that correlated unplanned weight loss with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Some things lead to weight loss is decreased levels of activity, depression, lack of muscle coordination which leads to problems with chewing and side effects of medications. We suggest a couple of tips that help those with Alzheimer’s maintain a healthy diet.

Small Portions
Alzheimer’s sufferers are easily overwhelmed. Try to increase the amount of food on their plate or the items of food on their plate so that they can concentrate on less.

Hydration
Making sure to stay hydrated is equally as important as nutrition. In fact, it is a huge part of nutrition. Be sure to keep an eye on the water intake as well as the food intake.

Cook Aromatic Foods
A great tip to getting someone to eat is to make food that engages their other senses. If they are excited by the scent, they are more prone to be excited to eat the food.

Finger Foods
Alzheimer’s disease causes a lot of problems with coordination. This can include the skills of simply using utensils. Finger food make it easier because there are less steps in the process of eating. Finger foods can sometimes also be more fun!

Talk to a Doctor
In regards to medication, there are usually other options. Talk to your loved one’s doctor. Let them know about the symptoms and they can give you advice or even choose a new medication.


Weight loss and dementia

A person with dementia may not eat or drink for these reasons, even when they feel hungry. This can lead to weight loss.

Respecting the preferences of a person with dementia will support them to eat and drink well. Similarly, eating and drinking can be made more difficult if a person’s routine and diet are changed.

For example, if a person is not used to spicy foods, they may not enjoy the sensation of eating heavily spiced meals. The person may be used to having different portion sizes, eating more or less regularly throughout the day, and may also not eat some foods because of their religious beliefs. By understanding a person with dementia’s preferences, you can support them to eat and drink.

As dementia progresses, the person is likely to need more support to meet their needs. While eating a balanced diet is recommended, sometimes it is more important to make sure they are eating enough, even if that means eating unhealthy foods. They may also need more support with drinking.


Help Make Communication Easier

The first step is to understand that the disease causes changes in communication skills. The second step is to try some tips that may make communication easier:

  • Make eye contact and call the person by name.
  • Be aware of your tone, how loud your voice is, how you look at the person, and your body language.
  • Encourage a two-way conversation for as long as possible.
  • Use other methods besides speaking, such as gentle touching.
  • Try distracting the person if communication creates problems.

To encourage the person to communicate with you:

  • Show a warm, loving, matter-of-fact manner.
  • Hold the person’s hand while you talk.
  • Be open to the person’s concerns, even if he or she is hard to understand.
  • Let him or her make some decisions and stay involved.
  • Be patient with angry outbursts. Remember, it’s the illness “talking.”

To speak effectively with a person who has Alzheimer’s:

  • Offer simple, step-by-step instructions.
  • Repeat instructions and allow more time for a response. Try not to interrupt.
  • Don’t talk about the person as if he or she isn’t there.
  • Don’t talk to the person using “baby talk” or a “baby voice.”


Get checked. Early Detection Matters.

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If you notice one or more signs in yourself or another person, it can be difficult to know what to do. It's natural to feel uncertain or nervous about discussing these changes with others. Voicing worries about your own health might make them seem more "real." Or, you may fear upsetting someone by sharing observations about changes in his or her abilities or behavior. However, these are significant health concerns that should be evaluated by a doctor, and it's important to take action to figure out what's going on. And to protect your health, don't miss these Signs You're Getting One of the "Most Deadly" Cancers.