Dementia is the loss of memory, cognitive reasoning, awareness of environment, judgment, abstract thinking, or the ability to perform activities of daily living. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that involves slowly developing symptoms that get worse over time. Dementia resulting from vitamin deficiencies, or caused by underlying disease (such as brain tumors and infections) may be reversible. Other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, are not reversible, and are often treated with medications.
As dementia progresses, changes can occur that may affect someone’s ability to obtain adequate food and nutrients to maintain their health status. Such changes will vary depending on the type of dementia, as well as the stage of the disease. Some of these changes include:
- Altered sense of smell and/or taste
- Inability to recognize food or distinguish between food and non-food items
- Poor appetite
- Chewing difficulties (pocketing food, repetitive chewing, etc.)
- Swallowing difficulties
- Forgetting to eat
- Shortened attention span leading to a loss of interest in eating
- Difficulty using eating utensils
- Increase in pacing or walking
- Drug side effects
The symptoms of dementia vary, and the treatment and nutrition care should be determined by these symptoms. Some techniques to consider for continued delivery of food and nutrition include:
- Provide kind reminders to eat.
- Provide meals in a low stress environment, minimizing noise and visual
- Develop a meal routine that can be repeated over time, to provide meals at
- similar times, or even similar meals every day.
- Have someone eat with the individual to provide assistance and reminders
- on how to eat.
- Have family join the individual at meal times to encourage eating.
- Pay attention to other health issues, such as infections, fevers, injuries, or
- other illnesses, as these may increase food and fluid needs.
- Provide well-liked food and drinks to encourage eating.
- Limit the amount of food served at one time so as not to overwhelm.
Provide finger-type foods for individuals struggling to use utensils:
- French fries
- Carrot sticks
Check with a dietitian or doctor for any specific dietary needs.
COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) is a progressive lung disease that makes breathing more difficult. Common symptoms of COPD include shortness of breath, fatigue, chest discomfort, weight loss, and coughing. A common nutritional concern for COPD is weight loss.
As the lungs lose their ability to function, the body must work harder to breathe, leading to an increase in the number of calories burned. The number of calories eaten per day must increase to meet this need. Increased fatigue and shortness of breath can make it difficult to eat at times.
Tips for the Prevention of Weight Loss:
- Eat numerous meals/snacks throughout the day (5 or 6 total)
- Eat slowly and enjoy the company of others
- Choose foods high in calories and avoid those considered “diet,” “light,” or low in fat or calories
- Choose foods high in protein such as milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, fish, meats, poultry, nuts, and beans
Continue to enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables, for plenty of vitamins and minerals, with extra calories added to them:
- Add peanut butter to fruits
- Top vegetables with cheese, butter, or salad dressing
- Make salads with nuts, cheese, avocadoes, meat, and regular dressing
Fat is a very concentrated source of calories, so adding foods or condiments with fat can increase the number of calories in a meal:
Choose cream based soups instead of broth-based soups
- Add butter or margarine to foods
- Add peanut butter to toast or oatmeal
- Add extra cheese to foods
- Choose regular salad dressing
- Add avocado and guacamole to vegetables and salads
Have family and friends help with meal preparation, prepare food in advance, or choose meals that require little-to-no preparation to avoid extra work which could lead to fatigue and loss of appetite. Some individuals may find it easier to drink instead of eat to get extra calories.
Some options for high calorie drinks include:
- Whole milk
- Fortified milk (whole milk with milk powder added)
- Oral nutritional supplements
Check with a dietitian or doctor for your specific dietary needs.
When visiting an assisted living community be sure to ask these 10 questions:
Is memory care available?
If your memory declines, can the community continue to care for you? Many places have memory care in place, for people who move in needing that care, but also for those who live in the community and develop certain memory conditions during their stay. Memory care should be a safe and secure area in the community.
Are the rooms private?
If privacy is a concern for you be sure to ask if the rooms are private. Some assisted living facilities require residents to share a room, while others have private rooms available.
Do they provide individualized care plans for each resident?
Check to see if there is a written care plan, individualized for each resident. Every person is different and will need different plans for care. This care plan can include things like medications, diet, and exercise.
How often are meals served?
Are meals available 7 days a week? If so, how many meals do you get a day?
What kind of services and activities are provided?
Do they have laundry, transportation or worship services? What about a podiatrist or neurologist? Is there an assisted living activity coordinator?
Can you bring furniture, bedding, and other items from your home?
Bringing items from home may make you feel more comfortable. What limitations do you have on what you can bring? Many places give you the opportunity to bring in furniture, bedding, and knickknacks.
Can you have pets?
Are you allowed to bring pets into the community? If so, what pets can you bring? Many communities allow you to bring in cats, dogs, fish and even birds! Make sure you ask this question and find out the cost associated with bringing an animal.
Can you and your visitors come and go at will?
It’s a common practice for assisted living communities to allow residents, families and friends in and out at will. But, check with the community and state regulations to ensure that this is the case.
Is the community safe?
Many communities have security guards and cameras. Other questions to ask would be, are there locks on the windows and doors? Are there well-lit rooms and hallways? Is there a generator, in case of an emergency?
What if I run out of money while living here?
Out living funds can be a concern for older adults. Some communities will give you a 30-day notice to move out if this occurs. Others, have policies in place that may help cover the cost of living and care.
What other questions have you found helpful in your assisted living search?
If your parent or loved one is struggling to make friends at their retirement community, look no further. Sometimes it can be hard to get to know people at a new place. Luckily, we have some great tips for how to get your loved one involved.
Most retirement communities have activities that range from physical fitness and day trips, to music and crafts. And, there are typically resident groups, such as writer’s groups or resident councils. The range of activities allows residents to choose the activities they are interested in and truly enjoy. Doing the things they love will increase the likelihood that they return to a future activity, try new activities, and meet likeminded people.
Also, keep in mind that activities are typically based on the level of care. This means that the activities are divided into groups for assisted living, independent living, skilled nursing, and even memory care. This may ease your loved one’s mind, when worrying about if they can properly engage in the activity.
If your loved one is still hesitant to get involved, try to develop a relationship with their activity coordinator. This is the person who plans and attends all the activities for their level of care. They can reach out to see what types of things your loved one is interested in, and help motivate them to attend future activities.
The activity coordinator could also provide you with a calendar of upcoming events that families can attend. Family events are a great way for your loved one to ease into meeting new members of the community. If you are attending these events, try to encourage conversation with other families. This will help your loved one develop relationships in the community. And, it can help you to develop relationships with people in your same position.
What tips have you tried to motivate your loved ones to become involved?
For the activity calendars at Wesley Glen, please click here.