Are the Dietary Needs of an Individual with Dementia Different?

The dietary needs of your loved one with dementia are not specifically different than the nutritional needs of an average adult, however, the changes that occur in people with dementia can drive a wedge into healthy eating which can lead to extra challenges, such as weight loss. 

Studies on the effects of diet on memory loss are few and far between, and inconclusive, but our bodies require proper nutrition to protect our overall wellbeing and to support quality of life, and this prevents health problems that can worsen the symptoms of dementia. 

Variety is Everything

What can someone with dementia eat? The short answer is, they can eat what the average adult eats. Seniors and those with dementia should eat a well-balanced diet that provides a variety of foods from each of the five food groups. 

Here are the MyPlate Food Groups dietary guidelines suggested by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture):  

Fruits – Focus on whole fruits

Vegetables – Vary your vegetables

Grains – Make half your grains whole grains

Protein Foods – Vary your protein routine

Dairy – Move to low-fat or fat-free daily milk or yogurt (or lactose-free dairy or fortified soy version)

These basic diet guidelines are super-important to the nutrition of our senior loved ones with dementia as they cover the vital nutrients that support the brain, heart, nervous system, bone structure, and immune system. 

You may also like: Ways to Communicate Effectively with a Person with Alzheimer’s 

What Nutrition Needs Should we Make Sure to Meet?

These basic diet guidelines are super-important to the nutrition of our senior loved ones with dementia as they cover the vital nutrients that support the brain, heart, nervous system, bone structure, and immune system. 

Hydration

Most of us feel the need to drink fluids while we eat, and we notice when we feel thirsty, but our loved ones with dementia may let hydration go to the wayside. 

Dehydration can lead to headaches, increased confusion, urinary tract infections, and constipation—all of which can worsen the symptoms of dementia. 

You may need to get creative to get extra fluids into the diet. A good starting place is to limit caffeine intake. Liquids that do not contain caffeine hydrate much better than caffeinated drinks. If your loved one insists on drinking coffee and iced tea, consider switching them over to decaffeinated brands. 

If your loved one does not like plain water, consider adding flavoring to make it more palatable.

Fruit juices and smoothies that contain fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are a great way to boost the diet and increase hydration. 

Limit What Is Not Healthy 

Foods that are not so healthy for any of us are especially troublesome for people that have conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart problems, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. 

Limit these items in the diet:

  • Foods that contain high saturated fat and cholesterol 
  • Refined sugars
  • Processed foods (most contain little nutrition, but are typically high in saturated fats, sodium, and sugar)
  • Sodium

Always check your loved one’s prescriptions for possible food interactions, as well as any medications that can lead to side effects resulting in nutritional deficiencies. 

Ways to Encourage Eating 

People with dementia do not require a special diet, but the overlying problem is that they may forget to eat, may have no interest in eating, and they may simply lose their appetite. Food intake decreases and then weight loss follows. What can you do? 

The most important tip to encourage eating is to not get into a food fight with your loved one, meaning, find something that they like and let them eat it!

Confusion and lack of coordination may inhibit a person from eating as they once did. Careful planning and preparation of foods can help. Do this by providing smaller portions, finger foods, as well as foods that are easier to chew. 

Turn up the charm of the foods by adding spices and favorite seasonings. 

Encourage your loved one to tell you what they want to eat. 

Consider adding supplemental liquids to the diet, such as protein shakes, to ramp up calorie and nutrient levels. Your loved one may look forward to a daily chocolate shake! 

Encourage eating by making mealtime fun. Eat together and talk about life. Make mealtime an uplifting social time to encourage a positive outlook on food. 

Remember that the quality of your loved one’s life is the most important aspect of their mental and physical well-being. Food can be a positive tool in this process. It can bring on a sense of joy. It can invoke memories. 

At Sundara, we understand individuality. Food preferences are a huge part of life. They are tied into memories that go back as far as childhood. Our meal program is designed around catering to a person’s unique tastes. We understand and nurture individual likes, dislikes, needs, memories, and unique stories. It all matters! 

If you are in or plan to be in the Round Rock or North Austin, Texas area, we would love to help you with any of your questions! Contact us online or schedule a virtual tour online or call us at 512-399-5080.

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]