Statistics Canada reports that more than two million Canadians receive home-based care. If you’re providing this type of care for a senior loved one with Alzheimer’s, you may notice certain challenges related to meals and eating in general. These challenges might include a loss of appetite, changes in how flavors are perceived, and swallowing and chewing difficulties. Here are some things to include in your loved one’s meal plan to minimize Alzheimer’s challenges.
1. Easy-to-Make FoodsIf your loved one is still able to prepare most of his or her own meals, make this task less demanding by stocking up on foods that are easy to prepare. Suggestions include:
- Premade salads
- Pull-open cans of vegetables
- Packaged yogurt, fruit, and pudding cups
- Instant cereals
- Single-portion dinners
2. Healthy Snacks within ReachIf your loved one is prone to reaching for snacks now and then throughout the day, put some healthy options within easy reach in the fridge or freezer, on the kitchen counter, or on the table. Options include:
- Carrots and cucumber slices with hummus
- Cottage cheese sprinkled with flax seed and/or cinnamon
- Fruit popsicles
- Soft, chewy granola bars
3. Flavorful OptionsRegardless of whether Alzheimer’s is part of the equation, the sense of taste tends to naturally diminish with age. Seniors with dementia-related conditions can react to this change by becoming disinterested in foods they normally like. One way to resolve this potential challenge is to add some flavor to your loved one’s favorite foods. Healthy ways to do this include adding:
- Cinnamon, turmeric, chili powder, cayenne, and other healthy, flavor-packed spices
- Berries, which can be placed on top of whole-grain cereal or added to smoothies
- Honey as a healthy alternative to sugar
4. Reasonable ChoicesVaguely asking your loved one what he or she would like for breakfast, lunch, or dinner may create confusion or frustration. But it’s still important to provide your loved one with choices to help him or her maintain a sense of autonomy. For example, you might ask “Would you like soup or a sandwich for lunch?” so your loved one can choose what he or she is in the mood for in a way that’s not overwhelming. If you need help planning and preparing healthy meals for your loved one, a professional caregiver can be a great source of support. There are many reasons seniors might need assistance at home. Some may require regular mental stimulation due to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, while others might only need part-time assistance with exercise and basic household tasks. Home Care Assistance is a leading homecare provider. Families rely on our expertly trained caregivers to help their senior loved ones maintain a high quality of life.
5. Opportunities for SocializationKeep meals light and simple by creating opportunities for your loved one to socialize with other family members and friends. Avoid potential distractions that could make it difficult for your loved one to engage and interact by not having a TV on in the background and clearly setting out food in a way that makes it easy to identify each item.
6. Softer Versions of Favorite FoodsShould chewing and swallowing become an issue, consider changing some of your food prep methods. For instance, bread products can be softened with honey, syrup, or non-hydrogenated margarine. Potatoes, yams, and carrots can be mashed with cream, milk, or broth. Dishes made in a slow cooker can also be soft, tasty, and appetizing for seniors with Alzheimer’s.
7. Consistent RoutinesSeniors with Alzheimer’s are often affected by changes to their routines. If mealtimes are involved, adjustments could result in increased moodiness or confusion. As much as possible, try to be consistent with meal-related routines by:
- Serving main daily meals at the same times
- Having meals in the same place
- Including favorite meal staples you know your loved one expects (e.g., a salad every time dinner is served)