Not only is it likely that nutrition plays a role in preventing Alzheimer’s disease, poor nutrition can make the symptoms of dementia worse for people unfortunate enough to have this condition. A report recently released by the National Association of Care Catering in the U.K, found that people with dementia who are undernourished may experience a rapid worsening of their dementia and their health.
Poor Nutrition and the Symptoms of Dementia
Poor nutrition not only worsens the symptoms of dementia, but increases the chance of an Alzheimer’s sufferer needing hospitalization or institutionalization. One study that looked at institutionalized patients with dementia found that fifty percent of them had calorie or protein malnutrition. Also disturbing was the fact that these demented patients with poor nutrition had a four times higher rate of infections requiring antibiotics. This isn’t surprising since protein malnutrition directly affects the immune system’s ability to fight off infection.
Nutrition for Dementia: Getting an Alzheimer’s Patient to Eat Can Be Challenging
One reason Alzheimer’s patients suffer from poor nutrition is their inability or reluctance to eat. Some Alzheimer’s patients have a poor appetite and little interest in food. Their sense of taste and smell is often diminished, and they may have difficulty chewing due to poor fitting dentures Swallowing difficulties are another common problem. Food loses its pleasure when it’s a task to eat it. Constipation can also contribute to a demented patient’s decreased appetite and reluctance to eat. These factors all add up to poor nutrition that makes the symptoms of dementia worse.
Dehydration can also be a problem in Alzheimer’s patients. Many people suffering from dementia forget to drink fluids – and it’s easy for caregivers to lose sight of how much fluid a person with dementia is receiving.
Dementia and Nutrition: How to Prevent Poor Nutrition
Patients with dementia should have a consultation with a nutritionist to make sure they’re getting adequate amounts of each food group. Many are underweight and undernourished and need additional calories and protein. They also should have dentures that fit well – and any issues with swallowing and constipation should be addressed by a doctor. If swallowing is a problem, their foods may need to be pureed.
When a person with dementia is eating, they need assistance and minimal distractions. It helps to play soothing music in the background at mealtime. To avoid the disorientation so many Alzheimer’s patients experience in the evening, dinner should be served earlier in the day – and they should have access to healthy snacks between meals.
In addition, people with dementia need at least 1.5 litters of fluid every day, which should be caffeine-free. Weighing them daily helps to determine whether they’re well hydrated and if they’re losing weight over time due to inadequate food intake.
Dementia and Nutrition: The Bottom Line?
Poor nutrition makes the symptoms of dementia worse and increases the risk of infections and other illnesses. If you care for someone who has dementia, make sure they eat a healthy diet and get enough fluids ‘” and take steps to ensure they’re able to successfully eat what’s put before them.
Medical News Today. “Malnutrition Can Cause People With Alzheimer’s Disease To Deteriorate”
J Am Geriatr Soc. 1987 Jan;35(1):31-8.