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As a caregiver, you are likely concerned about your loved one’s intake of food and water on a daily basis. Are they eating enough? Are they eating too much? Are they dehydrated? These are valid concerns, as some patients with memory loss are not able to regulate their food or water intake, or remember whether or not they ate.
The Importance of Hydration
Adequate hydration promotes cardiovascular health, keeps the body cool, removes toxins and improves immune function, and helps ward off fatigue and headaches. Being dehydrated increases the risk of delirium and makes our bodies more prone to infection, including Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s). Luckily, Alzheimer’s Family Center (AFC) has a wonderful dietitian and nursing team who help our participants get the right balance of nutritious food and fluids. I reached out to these true experts to get their tips for optimal food and water intake, how to make the eating experience as pleasurable as possible while decreasing behaviors and resistance.
Eating & Feeding
The nurses at AFC dine with, encourage, and feed our participants a light breakfast, balanced lunch, and an afternoon snack. They also record how much a person eats. You can keep a log or journal at home if you want to monitor intake, record foods, times, or settings that are more successful and enjoyable.
Getting your loved one to eat can be difficult but there are ways to help alleviate stress from both caregivers and the patients. Traci Roundy, RN, Director of Nursing,and her team have a few tips for caregivers to use.
Use Red Plates
Believe it or not, the color of the plate can make a difference. A study at Boston University showed that Alzheimer’s patients who used red plates consumed 25% more food than patients who ate off of white plates. Alzheimer’s patients cannot process visual data as well as other seniors, so the lack of color may prevent them from seeing their food.
Watch their fluid intake
Elderly people are at increased risk for dehydration since the thirst mechanism weakens with age, and limited social contact or forgetfulness may also play a role in losing sense of thirst. Individuals with dementia are reported to have a six-fold increased risk for dehydration.
Maintain a positive environment
The environment can affect how much a person enjoys eating and the amount they eat. Maintaining a quiet, positive environment can help a loved one concentrate and become less distracted. Consider keeping the table free of clutter so that the person is able to focus on just their plate. Let them take their time processing their food. Rushing them may cause stress and irritation.
6 small meals a day
Offer meals and snacks throughout the day. It may be easier for them to eat smaller portions rather than just three big meals.
It’s important to remember that individuals with memory loss often times also struggle with attention and concentration, but making the experience pleasurable through smiling, soft music, and a comfortable, relaxed, and unrushed setting improve food intake, dining experience, and impact overall health and quality of life.
For more tips on healthy eating and brain foods, check out Mind Booster, a 4-week class on brain health and aging well!
This post was written in collaboration with Traci Roundy, Manager of Nursing Services at Alzheimer’s Family Center.