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Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease And A Healthy Diet

Aug 17, 2007
The eating habits of people who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's disease can have a direct effect on their health and the progression of the disease. It is very important that patients that suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's maintain both a good nutritional intake as well as adequate fluids as being fully hydrated helps many patients avoid or at least lessen some of the symptoms such as agitation, confusion and restlessness that can strike during the early evening hours.

A caregiver for a person with dementia or Alzheimer's should also be certain that the patient is getting adequate nutrition as weight loss is a very common occurrence. Patients in the moderate stages of dementia and beyond simply cannot recall if they have eaten or not and many medications make them feel nauseous and they simply do not eat.

It is a good idea to keep a written log of when meals and medications are consumed so you can not easily track when the last meal was eaten; you can also track such things as foods that cause problems such as sugary or foods high in caffeine contributing to agitation or nervousness.

In the moderate to mid-stages of dementia and Alzheimer's, many patients will participate in their own care as much as they can and will want to see their personal log of meals and medications. It should be made clear that only the care giver should be making entries as patients sometimes recall eating when they haven't or they may have skipped a meal and clearly remember in their head as having eaten. Both are common scenarios and a log will help keep track of their intake or in the case of a missed meal.

Loss of weight is a big problem for many patients that suffer from dementia and Alzheimer's. It is important to help the patients keep their weight up as severe weight loss can contribute to weakness and lower their immune system health leaving them susceptible to catching contagious illnesses.

Providing a balanced diet will go a long way to helping the dementia or Alzheimer's patient combat some of symptoms, especially in the earlier stages of the illness. If you're curious what the basics of a balanced diet are, you don't need a degree in nutrition, it's mostly commonsense.

A balanced diet is a good mixture of carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals. Avoid or allow in small amounts sugars and completely avoid products with high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils. Providing a balanced diet for a dementia or Alzheimer's patient will help their body have the necessary energy to maintain cells and tissues and also combat illness.

Getting adequate carbs is easy. Pastas, whole grains, cereals and breads are good ways to get cards into the diet of a patient. If the patient has difficulty chewing or swallowing, making a "super cereal" by putting grains such as oatmeal, brown rice, millet or barley in a coffee grinder, blender or food processor. Grind to a fine consistency and you will have a very nutritious grain serving.

Read labels as many breads are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup which along with refined sugar has shown not only to be a main player in the increase in diabetes but also damaging to the functioning of Alzheimer's patients and may even speed the progression of the disease according to "Food Swings" author Barnet Meltzer.

Fats should be given sparingly but there is some evidence to indicate that low levels of foods in natural fats such as butter or ice cream. Read labels and buy products with the fewest ingredients as possible, go for as natural as you can.

Proteins are important as they help the body keep the immune system strong and also keep the ability to repair cell damage. Fruits should be given a couple of times a day as can be tolerated and vitamins and minerals are very important supplements for meals that may be missed or foods that simply weren't eaten.

Protein drinks and soft, chewy food bars are often great helpers in getting adequate nutrition into a dementia or Alzheimer's patient. Additionally, be sure the patient drinks plenty of water. Soft drinks, coffee and tea while made with a good deal of water can actually contribute to dehydration. So while the patient may enjoy these as a treat from time to time, keep water the mainstay of their fluid intake.

You will have to adjust the food intake to the stage of the dementia or Alzheimer's that the patient is suffering. Patients in later stages will need very soft and easy to swallow foods. Constipation may be an issue for some patients, be sure that they have a couple of servings of fruit and adequate hydration and this should keep that common complaint to a minimum.

Getting the proper nutrition for a patient with dementia or Alzheimer's can be a snap if you know the basics for building nutritionally sound meals and there is now strong evidence that the foods these patients intake on a regular basis can have a strong bearing on slowing the progression of their conditions. Use the tips in this article to help someone suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's lead as healthy and productive of a life as they can throughout the stages of their disease.
About the Author
Andi Michaels writes regularly for Alzheimers And Dementia where you can read many more articles on Alzheimers disease . Also go to here for a range of informative articles on dementia care and much more.
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