When caring for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s, good nutrition is essential to manage symptoms and optimize their quality of life. It is quite common for patients with these conditions to be at risk for dehydration or malnutrition due to a decreased sense of hunger and thirst.
Over time, their tastes may also change, presenting challenges in meal preparation. For these reasons, it is very important to make sure your loved one is well-attended and observed during meal times to make sure he or she has eaten enough. Meeting with a dietician to discuss the foods right for your loved one is important to establish a balanced diet that will meet your loved one’s nutritional needs.
How many calories are enough?
There is no uniform amount of calories that every person with dementia or Alzheimer’s must consume. Instead, caloric intake is very much dependent on your loved one’s current weight, gender, and activity level. For example, according to Mayo Clinic’s calorie calculator, a 70- year old male who is 5′ 10″ and 170 lbs will need to consume around 2,050 calories to maintain his current weight of he is lightly active. A female of the same age who is 5′ 5″ and 150 lbs will need to consume around 1,700 calories to maintain her current weight of she does light activity at least three times a week.
If the person is more sedentary, then they will need less to maintain a proper weight. If your loved one happens to become underweight, then increasing caloric intake above his baseline caloric requirement will help him reach a healthy weight again.
Making sure your loved one eats enough
Making sure your loved one is eating enough is absolutely important, especially in the middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s, when loss of appetite is common. If eating a lot during regular meals is challenging, offer them meals more frequently in more accessible forms.
For example, your loved one can easily swallow soft foods like applesauce or easy-to-eat finger foods like chicken nuggets. To maintain hydration and proper nutrition, offering snacks in between meals like gelatin, popsicles, and ice cream can help increase caloric intake as well. Supplements like Ensure also help your loved one get the vitamins and minerals his or her body needs. Taking walks with your loved one can increase their appetite. Eating together can also stimulate appetite because mealtimes are made social and fun.
With the help of a dietician and a team of caretakers, your loved one will be in good hands and have the best quality of life with a nutritious diet. If you have any questions about how to help someone with Alzheimer’s stay properly nourished and maintain a healthy weight, please contact us at (888) 376-7298 to talk to us today.