Maintaining a Healthy Diet for
Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients:
If you’re caring for a loved one who is battling Alzheimer’s, meal time challenges can be very frustrating for everyone involved. It’s important to note that as a person’s cognitive function declines, the simple act of sitting down to dinner and using utensils can be overwhelming. As the disease progresses, it can be difficult to eat the foods they loved and loss of appetite is quite common. Time and again caregivers have stressed how frustrating meal times can become. But meals can provide many positive benefits besides nutrition. We know that eating a balanced and healthy diet is good for the heart and body, doctors have discovered that proper nutrition is also beneficial to the brain.
Taste and smell are very strong memory triggers. The smell of freshly baked pie can immediately transport you decades before to your childhood, when someone you loved took the time to make it for you. Those happy memories are very grounding and can trigger other happy thoughts as well.
Before you even cook some of your loved ones favorite foods, take the time to assess their environment. When they sit down to eat are there a lot of distractions? Is the TV on at each meal? Is the table cluttered with many plates or books? Take the time to keep things simple and uncluttered. Make it a point to turn off the radio or tv. Clear the table of anything other than the plate and utensils.
Try to keep the same eating schedule daily. This provides a structure in their day and a feeling of security while so many other things seem fleeting. And if possible make sure you have someone eating with them. The simple act of sharing a meal together can also be comforting. It also increases the chances of them eating more.
And don’t just call them to sit down when the food is ready. Involve your loved one in the meal process. They can help prep by peeling, chopping, maybe setting the table, or clearing afterwards. This not only helps them retain their functional skills, but it puts eating into a larger context rather than just a mundane routine of sitting down and eating. They’ve been able to help and that is a powerful for their own personal control and self-worth.
And to ensure the proper diet here are our top picks for healthy eating.
Dark Leafy Greens: spinach, kale, watercress are the holy grail of a healthy diet.
TIP: Making green smoothies are a wonderful way to get these greens in their raw state (plus it taste delicious). In a high-speed blender puree a few handfuls of greens, coconut milk or yogurt, and a banana or mango.
Vegetables: Broccoli, radishes, cauliflower, beets, turnips, sweet potatoes, are all wonderful and colorful additions to meals.
TIP: Don’t just give up on a vegetable after the first try if they’ve rejected it. If you served it diced and sautéed, try it pureed with a little olive oil. Or mix it in with some of the favorite vegetables.
Berries and other Fruits: Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, red grapes, and cherries. Blueberries especially are not only delicious but packed with antioxidants.
Beans: are packed with protein and fiber.
Whole Grains & Quinoa: while white rice is a common side, try nutrient packed whole grains like: freekah, millet, farro, and barley. And instead of water cook them in vegetable stock for added flavor.
Fish: Getting those healthy omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain function. Just make sure the fish fillets are free of any bones.
TIP: You can simply baked the fish fillets rubbed with a little lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Don’t forget a little olive oil too.
We Have Special Skills for Helping Patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia:
Our caregivers are available to assist with personal care, household services, respite and/or companion care while bringing exceptional compassion, skills and knowledge about Alzheimer’s and dementia to our clients.