Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain condition in which brain cells atrophy and finally die. It is the most common cause of dementia in seniors. This disorder manifests itself as a progressive loss of cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and social abilities.
The loss of smell is generally the first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, followed by memory problems. The individual may lose track of recent developments or discussions. The patient’s memory and speech will deteriorate as the disease develops over months, and they may be unable to do everyday tasks such as showering, using the toilet, and eating.
A caregiver must be mindful of and responsive to the patient’s various needs. For example, they must ensure that the patient eats, drinks, and grooms regularly. Caring for someone with severe Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging because the patient’s requirements aren’t always expressed.
People may not realize their hunger or thirst until it is too late. They may also forget to chew and swallow their meals every now and then. Therefore, even if it is unpleasant for a caregiver when a patient stops eating or conversing, they must have patience and go the extra mile if necessary.
However, pressuring them to eat is not an option since they might choke or inhale food into their airways or lungs. So when your Alzheimers-affected loved one refuses to eat, you’ll need to come up with creative, compassionate alternatives.
In this article, we will learn the reasons behind their lack of appetite and how you can encourage them to eat more.
Reasons for Poor Appetite For People Living with Dementia
In addition to the disease’s advancement, your loved one may be unable to eat due to the following reasons:
When a loved one is suffering, eating becomes even more difficult. In addition, sensitive teeth, denture difficulties, or painful gums might cause discomfort. Regular mouth inspections and dental hygiene are critical in these situations. In addition, they may lead to a remedy for the underlying issue that is leading to the refusal of food or drinks by your loved ones.
Appetite loss could be because of depression. People living with Alzheimer’s are prone to depression. Depression can be cured with the help of medication and some other therapies. Talk to your doctor if you feel your loved one is depressed.
3. Issues in communication
They may have difficulty expressing their hunger, dislike for the meal they’ve been given, or that it’s too hot. They might also be confused about what to do with the food. They may use their actions to express their demands. For example, they may refrain from eating or keeping food in their mouth. You may give them a selection to pick from or use prompts and illustrations to help them choose what they want.
Due to weariness, persons with Alzheimer’s disease may stop eating or quit midway through a meal. It can also lead to additional problems, such as difficulty concentrating or coordinating one’s actions. People may find it difficult to focus on food from beginning to end. Acknowledge this and motivate them to eat whenever they’re most alert.
5. Amount of Physical Activity
A person may not feel hungry if they are not particularly active during the day. Motivate them to get active since it will improve their health and enhance their appetite. Similarly, if a person is highly active or agitated, they may burn more calories, get hungrier, or lose weight more quickly than usual.
Many of the drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia might induce a lack of appetite. Vomiting and stomach ache are two of the common side effects of medications that may contribute to your loved one not eating.
Understand the adverse effects if your loved one’s doctor recommends a new drug or adjusts the dose of one that is currently prescribed. If you suspect that a medicine is impairing your loved one’s eating ability, consult the doctor.
7. Reduced Dexterity
Adults with Alzheimer’s progressively lose their ability to coordinate their hands and eyes. It may be physically and emotionally taxing to eat. The irritation of not being able to use cutlery might lead to a loss of dignity and self-esteem. They may give up and refuse to eat.
For those living with Alzheimer’s, constipation is a prevalent concern. Constipation can make them feel nauseous and bloated, making them want to eat less. You may help your loved one avoid constipation by urging them to consume fiber-rich meals, drink enough water, and take the necessary measures.
How to Encourage Appetite of People Living with Dementia?
You can better explore options once you know what’s causing your loved one’s loss of appetite. The following suggestions will not work in every situation, and it’s vital to realize that there is no such thing as a miracle cure. A plan that is a success today might not be tomorrow, and something that did not work now can work later.
1. Give them Different Options
Offer your seniors different choices in food, drinks, fruits, smoothies, etc. Make them choose what they would want to have from the options that you have put down on a menu for them. Then, they can color or check the item they want.
2. Favorite Foods
Cook or get things that your loved one has previously liked and enjoyed. Furthermore, nostalgic foods they may have enjoyed as a youngster might elicit pleasant memories and promote hunger.
Don’t turn down your loved one’s requests for food. Nutrition often takes the second place in satisfying, calorie-dense meals. That isn’t to imply they can live only on junk food and sugar. If their meals are generally healthy, permit them to indulge.
3. Soft Foods
Many cherished foods may suddenly be off-limits due to pain and trouble swallowing and chewing. Opt for soft foods in this scenario. Try to give them foods like yogurt, mashed potatoes, rice, soup, scrambled eggs, or pureed fruits.
4. Encourage them to Eat Every two Hours
Instead of two or three large meals, encourage individuals to munch throughout the day. A dish full of food might be intimidating, and thus the burden to clean it up isn’t healthy for them.
Maintain a supply of healthy snacks and attract your loved one’s focus to them on a regular basis. Nuts and seeds, crackers, cheese, fruits, and juices are good options.
5. Serve Finger Foods
Offer finger foods such as sandwiches, falafel, flatbreads, spring rolls, quesadillas, and slices of fruit and veggies if the individual does not like to eat a meal at scheduled times or a table. Even some large meals, such as roast chicken, can be given as finger foods if they are served in easy-to-hold portions.
6. Make Mealtimes Fun
Utilize mealtime as a chance to get some movement and social interaction. It might be an opportunity to discuss foods from their younger days, which may assist in piquing their interest in eating. They could also assist with meal preparation. The process of cooking can also refresh them and make them hungry.
7. Make it Smooth(ies)
Smoothies are a brilliant way to provide them with both energy and nutrition. You can blend vegetables such as beetroots, carrots, and leafy greens with fruits.
Avocados, nut butter, yogurt, chia seeds, almond or soy milk, and wheatgrass are all excellent additions.
If you want to sweeten the smoothie, add a spoon of maple syrup or honey or a little vanilla to enhance the flavor.
Having a stock of energy drinks ready is also a smart option. These, or perhaps even good old milkshakes, will help if they refuse to eat anything else.
8. Distraction-free Environment
Switch off the television and keep your mobile on mute during meals. Remove as many distractions and interruptions as possible. Keep a few soothing tunes set and ready to play if your loved one reacts favorably to gentle music. Sitting quietly with a family member as they eat may also be beneficial. Providing a peaceful, distraction-free atmosphere may help them focus and eat more.
It may be frightening and stressful for caregivers and family members when people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia stop eating. Therefore, it’s crucial to figure out what’s causing their lack of appetite, eating difficulties, or unwillingness to eat.
After you’ve figured out what’s causing your loved one’s eating problems, some measures can be taken to support them to enjoy eating again — and, as a result, eat more.
People living with Alzheimer’s may also find it difficult to stay hydrated. Encourage fluid consumption by providing several glasses of fluids during the day and meals high in water, like fruits, stews, shakes, and smoothies.
Finally, treat your loved one like an adult, not a kid. Don’t penalize them if they refuse to eat; instead, try a different approach and start over. You might be able to come up with a solution that satisfies their hunger and alleviates your concerns.
Please remember that you’re not the only one in this; there is help. Consult a doctor if you’re worried about someone’s nutrition. A nutritionist can also guide what to eat in a given scenario. If you have any concerns regarding food intake or swallowing difficulties, make sure to notify the doctor. They may want to put in a referral to Speech Therapy to further address this.