Home Health Care News

Helping Families Cope


Helping Families Cope: Additional Nutritional Tips for Family Caregivers

Following are some tips for you to use during mealtime:

  • If a plateful of food is overwhelming, try placing one item at a time in front of your loved one and give verbal cues such as, “look at the orange carrots,” or “here’s the roast chicken that you like.” Wait to place the next selection on the plate until your loved one finishes eating the first item.
  • Allow plenty of time to eat and keep the environment quiet.
  • Breakfast time seems to be when individuals with Alzheimer’s are most alert and most hungry. Plan the most food for this time of the day in order to maintain your loved one’s weight.
  • Remind your loved one to chew and swallow.
  • Research studies have shown that people with Alzheimer’s disease eat as much as 25 percent more when their food is served on brightly colored plates. Use bright colors to make it easier to distinguish between the plate and the food.
  • Make sure the plate or bowl is secure on the table to avoid slipping and frustrating spills.

Supplying your loved one with good nutrition in a calm and stress-free environment can make it possible for him or her to cope both physically and emotionally with the disease. Taking extra time to set the tone for a successful meal can increase quality of life and reduce the risk of malnutrition. When you plan a day well, the result is a calmer, more relaxed day.


Helping Families Cope – Making Mealtimes More Enjoyable

The senses often diminish with age. Even healthy older adults lose their appetites when the senses of taste and smell weaken. In addition, Alzheimer’s disease contributes to these natural changes in appetite and eating, because of the decisions that need to be made on what foods to eat, and how to use utensils. Some food requires some cutting, unwrapping, reheating and seasoning to taste – all tasks that are difficult for an older adult with Alzheimer’s or related dementia.

Causes of Mealtime Problems

Other issues can cause mealtime problems for those with Alzheimer’s disease. Following are some common issues and recommendations:

  • Ill-fitting dentures can cause pinching and problems with chewing and may cause painful sores. If your loved one wears dentures, make sure they fit properly.
  • Chronic diseases such as stomach problems, diabetes and especially depression can decrease appetite. Constipation also contributes to a lack of appetite. Liquid or powdered nutritional supplements may be needed to treat poor appetites.
  • Certain food may interfere with medications. It is important to ask questions and talk to your loved one’s physician about preparing menus that are appropriate with prescribed medications.
  • Table manners may be lost as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. Your loved one may spill or drop utensils and dish-ware. Consider using plastic plates, bowls and cups. Large cloth napkins can also help avoid stains on clothing.
  • Impulse eating may occur. Your loved one may overeat or try to eat non-food items. It is best to keep mealtime simple and in a quiet environment.
  • Swallowing may become difficult as the disease progresses because it involves a voluntary and involuntary reflex. Consider learning the Heimlich maneuver to assist in the removal of food that lodges in the throat.
  • Avoid serving hard candies, hotdogs, whole grapes or cherries with pits to your loved one if he or she has swallowing problems or is at risk for choking.



Helping Families Cope – Communication to Smooth the Process

When a person has Alzheimer’s disease, the damage to his or her brain can make it difficult to recall or to understand words. Attempting to recall or decipher words can be overwhelming and result in frustration. The person may become agitated or repeat one word or a question over and over – a true test of your patience and understanding.

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia often:

  • Lose their train of thought
  • Need more time to comprehend what is being said
  • Curse or use abusive or offensive language

As a family member, you can enhance communication with your loved one by:

  • Avoiding distractions and noise.
  • Keeping things simple – using short sentences and plain words.
  • Avoiding questions – offering suggestions instead.
  • Being patient and not interrupting when your loved one is expressing him or herself.
  • Maintaining eye contact and showing interest. Staying near your loved one, so he or she knows someone is listening and trying to understand.
  • Not taking it personally. As hurtful as it is, you need to remember it is the disease talking, not your loved one.
  • Using props and cues to increase recognition. For example, when taking your loved one to the bathroom, you can point to the toilet and ask, “Do you need to go to the bathroom?”
  • Remaining calm – using a normal and relaxed voice. Patience pays off with a smoother day.

Helping Families Cope – Alzheimer’s Care: Practical Tips

During the early months or years, individuals with dementia are aware of their metal impairment. They usually respond to their memory problems in a way that is typical of their personality. Some are passive and resigned to their fate; some are angry and abrasive; but almost all are depressed with low self-esteem.

As the disease progresses, individuals with Alzheimer’s become more clinging and dependent and lose the ability to do the things they once enjoyed. As a family caregiver, your loved one’s behavior may shock or bewilder you. You may be anxious and searching for ways to cope. Following are some suggestions to use with you loved one when daily tasks that were once automatic become difficult and result in frustration, fear, agitation and even aggression.

  • Limit choices – Having fewer options makes deciding easier. Whether it is laying out clothes for dressing or choosing between coffee or tea, it is important to limit choices for easier decision-making. Reducing distractions also helps a person with Alzheimer’s disease focus on one thing at a time.
  • Involve your loved one as much as possible – Set up successful accomplishments each day that allow your loved one to do tasks he or she is still able to do. This may require some cueing, prompting and patience. For example, you can place an electric razor or a hairbrush in your loved one’s hand and use verbal cues such as “shave your face,” or “brush your hair.”
  • Allow more time – Keep in mind that everything takes more time when your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease. Providing simple one-step instructions and allowing more time to perform a task may be necessary.
  • Plan your loved one’s schedule wisely – Determine what time of the day your loved one functions the best and is the most agreeable. Schedule the most difficult tasks – such as bathing or doctor’s appointments – during this time period.
Home Instead Senior Care is an in-home health care provider located in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina serving individuals and families in the Myrtle Beach and Grand Strand area for over 11 years! We offer assistance to those in need for companionship, home help, personal care, short-term recovery, Alzheimer’s care, Respite care and many other services to make your life easier.

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p) 843. 357. 9777
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11746 Hwy 17 Bypass, Suite B
Murrells Inlet, SC 29576