Unhealthy Weight Loss in People with Alzheimer's Disease
Proper nutrition can help someone with Alzheimer's maintain physical strength and balance and contribute to overall health and well-being. Unhealthy weight loss can occur without proper nutrition, putting the person with dementia at risk for many adverse health outcomes, including falls, medication side effects, and behavioral symptoms.
Alzheimer's disease cannot be stopped or reversed, but nutrition may improve health and quality of life for those living with dementia. About 5.8 million Americans live with the disease, and by 2050 that number is expected to rise to more than 14 million.
Alzheimer's affects memory, thinking, learning, organizing skills, and the ability to complete daily tasks. People with Alzheimer's also may experience weight loss, particularly in the late stages of the disease. As cognitive function declines, your loved one may:
- Become overwhelmed with too many food choices
- Forget to eat
- Have difficulty using forks, spoons, or knives
When caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's, follow these strategies to reduce their risk of weight loss.
Food, Eating, and Alzheimer's
People with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia do not need a special diet. As with anyone, eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is important for their overall health. For your loved one, making every bite a meaningful bite is a good rule to follow. Provide them with foods that are high in protein and calories, as well as food that they can easily chew and swallow. Some examples are:
- Cottage cheese
- Greek yogurt
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Peanut butter
With a doctor's recommendation, you can also add protein powder or other supplements to boost nutrients. A bowl of oatmeal with protein powder, flaxseed, butter, and brown sugar are healthy meal options.
It may become more difficult for your loved one to cut food, and they may forget how to use utensils. In these cases, allow them to be as independent as possible and serve finger foods such as:
- Chicken tenders
- Cheese sticks
- Fish sticks
- Orange pieces
You can also use adapted serving dishes and utensils to make eating easier. A plate with a slightly elevated rim or a non-skid bowl may be easier for your loved one to use during meals, as the sides of these dishes can make it easier for your loved one to scoop food onto their fork or spoon. You can purchase forks, spoons, and knives with extra-large or built-up, weighted handles to make gripping easier.
When preparing food, also consider items that are easier to spear or manage. For example, bow-tie pasta may be easier for your loved one to eat than spaghetti noodles as the former can be speared with a fork, and the latter can easily slide off the utensil and make eating more of a challenge.
In later stages of Alzheimer's and dementia, swallowing problems can lead to choking, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Avoid foods that are difficult to chew or thin liquids. Thin liquids can trickle down your loved one's throat into the trachea (the breathing tube) vs. the esophagus (part of the digestive system) and cause them to choke more easily than thicker liquids. You can thicken liquids such as water, juice, milk, and soup by adding commercial thickeners that can be purchased at a pharmacy. Liquids that have the consistency of nectar, a milkshake or pudding may be a better option.
Creating a quiet and simple environment can help your loved one with mealtime. These tips from the Alzheimer's Association can be helpful:
- Limit distractions.
- Keep the table simple.
- Distinguish food from the plate.
- Check the food temperature.
- Serve two or three foods at a time.
Get more tips and ideas on how to best Care for a loved one with Dementia and Alzheimer's with our In-Home Care & Caregiving Resources at BrightStar Care: https://www.brightstarcare.com/resources
BrightStar Care of Portland provides 24/7 to hourly Private Duty Home Health Care and Alzheimer's Care.
We offer support around the clock to families and individuals, providing a full continuum of medical and non-medical services, including special Dementia care. We proudly serve the greater Beaverton, Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Gaston, Newberg, Portland, Hillsboro, Forest Grove areas.
For more information on how BrightStar Care supports Portland families living with Alzheimer's and learn about our local team of caregivers, nannies, sitters, and skilled healthcare professionals – please Click Here.
See more here: https://www.brightstarcare.com/resources/alzheimers-dementia/alzheimers-weight-loss