Food and nutrition are important for everyone especially for patients with Alzheimer’s. The disease can take a toll on an individual’s appetite and even willing to eat. Patients forget what food looks like, how to prepare it and even the meal times. It is expected since Alzheimer’s impairs their cognitive skills and memory. One of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s is significant weight loss because patients do not remember to eat.
Another common aspect of Alzheimer’s is that patients will refuse to eat. Caregivers and family members get frustrated and concerned in such situations.
The solution is not to force them to eat because the patient may choke or accidentally inhale food into their lungs. The alternative solutions are creative and compassionate ways.
- A patient may refuse to eat because:
- They are unable to recognize the signs of hunger
- They have no appetite because they are confused or moody
- Their bodies are shutting down as the illness progresses
Here are tips you can use when an Alzheimer’s patient refuses to eat:
Assess The Problem
Try and find out if their problem is related to vision if they are only eating half the plate. If that is the problem, adjust the plate 180° and see if they will finish the meal
Explore Colors & Contrasts
Plain and white plates or tablecloths may the reason they are refusing to eat. You can use colorful dishes to help them focus
Alternative Hydration Methods
Do not stick to drinking water only as the sole source of hydration. You should find other alternative hydration methods by giving the patient liquid meals like soup or cereal.
Assess Dental Issues
While you may be thinking that the patient is refusing to eat because of dementia, the real reason may be because they have a dental issue that is making it uncomfortable for them to eat. You should inspect their mouth for redness or swelling. In case they have a dental issue, take them to the dentist for treatment.
Consult The Physician
You should consult the patient’s physician so that they can rule out any problems that may be causing them to refuse eating like heartburn, constipation, diarrhea, and nausea or medications they may be taking.
Serve Small Portions
Don’t overwhelm the patient with too much food. Serve small and frequent snacks and meals like easy-to-eat finger foods. These may be more appealing to the patient.
Engage your patient with light exercise like walking which can help stimulate their appetite.
Offer A Drink Or A Mouth Swab
You can also swab the patient’s’ mouth with a moistened sponge to keep them comfortable. Small quantities of juice, honey or maple syrup may also be enjoyable
Talk To The Doctor
Talk to the patient’s doctor on alternative methods of prolonging life through hydration and artificial nutrition
When it gets too overwhelming to keep up, attend support groups where you can get advice from people who have gone through such experiences. Lastly, always be patient with Alzheimer’s patients and be willing to go the extra mile.