Alzheimer’s is a difficult, progressive disease that alters not just the mind and mood of people, but it can have a significant impact on other habits like eating. As Alzheimer’s progresses, eating can become a big challenge for a patient and it can be hard to get them to eat enough food. For caregivers, this is extremely challenging and frustrating. But, there are many things that can be done to help patients eat more at meal times.
Here are some tips:
- A study at Boston University found that 25% more food was consumed when food was presented on a red plate as opposed to a white one. http://www.bu.edu/cas/magazine/spring10/golomb/ Try changing the color of the plate that food is given to the patient on. Some foods may blend with the color of the plate and can be difficult for your loved one to see.
- Placement of foods on a plate can change the way a person eats, too. For example, some people have found that placing a well-liked food on the left side of a plate for a left-handed person made it easier for the patient to eat. Think about where and how the food is presented on the plate to encourage more eating.
- Finger foods are a good alternative if a person is struggling with using utensils.
- Eye contact is a good way to communicate with someone while you eat. The idea is that while you eat, make eye contact with the other person, smile and keep quiet. It may take some time, but hopefully, the patient will follow your lead and eat with you.
- Portion sizes can help a person eat more. Make smaller portions of only a couple of foods. Limit the number of items on the plate to make it easier for the person to pick.
- If you are offering meats or fish, cut the product up into small pieces that are not difficult to chew. Chewing can become a daunting task for people with Alzheimer’s disease and in very progressive Alzheimer’s, and people with Alzheimer’s can forget how to chew.
- Limit the talking. Talking can distract the patient from what he/she is doing and confusion could set in. Keep quiet and let the patient focus on what they are doing.
- Be patient. Getting to know what works and what doesn’t will take some time. Alzheimer’s patients don’t move quickly so try to maintain a pace with them.
- Get to know what the person you are caring for likes. Ask other family members what the patient’s more favored meals and foods were and try those.
Remember that Alzheimer’s patients are quick to lose weight and develop unhealthy eating habits as the disease progresses. Don’t get discouraged. Create a calm environment. Try adding soothing music and keep the environment calm. Pay attention to what gets the patient to be calm, interact with you, and creates a sense of joy and peace. These things will all help when meal time comes around and could get your patient to maintain healthier eating habits.