Some of our fondest memories in life involve sharing a meal with friends and family. Food brings people together, nourishing both body and soul.
Think of all the celebrations, holidays, and reasons why you gather around a table to share a meal with those you love. Laughter, stories, reminiscing and long conversations seem to flow freely when sharing food with others.
For those providing caregiving support to someone with Dementia, the goal should be to serve healthy food options that support overall wellness. Additionally, it’s crucial that the diet for those with Dementia be nutrient-dense to avoid nutrient deficiency.
A nutritional deficiency occurs when the body doesn’t absorb the necessary amount of a nutrient. Deficiencies can lead to a variety of health problems, such as digestion or skin issues, and even mimic Dementia symptoms. However, Dementia due to nutritional deficiency is preventable!
The key is to serve foods and meals rich in vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. High sugar and fat or processed/packaged food are discouraged. And, don’t forget to Hydrate!
Maintaining a robust hydration schedule is suggested for people of all ages to avoid dehydration.
Dehydration is especially detrimental in aging bodies. When left untreated, dehydration can lead to increased confusion and dizziness, which mimics certain Dementia traits. Therefore, maintaining healthy hydration is a key to keeping both mind and body healthy.
What to Serve?
Adding leafy greens to the diet of those with Dementia is a great place to start. Superfoods like spinach and Kale are extremely nutrient-dense options. They are good sources of a variety of vitamins and minerals.
- Spinach: high in vitamin C, Iron, Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, and Vitamins B6, B9, and E
- Kale: Considered one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, it’s high in antioxidants and Vitamins A, K, C, B6, Copper, Potassium, and Magnesium
Consider adding Lemon to water for an extra wellness boost with high impact. Water infused with lemon is high in Vitamin C, improves skin quality, and aids in digestion. Mint leaves or Cucumbers can also be added for more flavor and added benefits.
As the Dementia journey progresses, it’s not uncommon to notice a loss of appetite or weight loss for those in your care. Keep in mind, changes in taste buds, vision, dentures, or teeth combined with cognitive decline can all impact a persons’ success at mealtime.
As the Dementia advances, the food options may need modifications or a change-of-presentation.
- Space on the plate: serve smaller portions, leaving space in between the food items. This gives those with both cognitive and visual issues a chance to differentiate the options.
- Single Servings: experiment with serving one food item at a time, to lessen confusion. Meat, followed by veggies then dessert. Don’t overwhelm with all food choices at once.
- Adaptive Food: simplify mealtime by serving foods that can be easily eaten by hand. This is a good option for those who struggle with utensils. Most any entrée can be made into a ‘slider’ by adding an easy-to-manage bun, biscuit, or bagel. Instead of mashed potatoes, serve thick-cut herbed fries. Instead of a bowl of fruit, consider a fruit smoothie served with a straw.
Enjoying a meal doesn’t need to stop happening just because a person has Dementia. In fact, once the Dementia journey begins, caregivers need to be extra vigilant to ensure each dining experience is nurturing, welcoming, and served for success.
Offering food and drink options that are nutrient-dense and adapted as needed, are great modifications to support those in your care. In fact, it’s Culinary Care™!