A huge thank you to one of our blog readers, Jane Sandwood, who wrote this article for us. We think it is really helpful and informative for anyone who cares for someone older or who is living with a dementia. Jane has included some useful links for more in-depth information on some of the points covered.
Tips for Changing Your Diet as a Senior With Dementia
At least one in ten adults in the UK over the age of 65 are found to be malnourished when admitted to hospital for other health needs. This startling statistic, demonstrates the urgent need for intervention. Many older people do not realise their dietary requirements change as they age. But there are also many living with conditions like dementia which prevent them from making these changes on their own. So what can you do to help?
Make Cooking a Shared Activity
You or your loved one may not enjoy cooking anymore and may have trouble remembering recipes and ingredients. Why not help your loved one inject some fun back into dinner and try cooking a new recipe once or twice a week together? Older adults tend to eat less causing many nutritional problems, so changing the diet gradually, will ensure the right foods are included in the diet. Older people also tend to stick with what they like to eat, therefore old habits may have to be changed in stages. If you need support as you're struggling to eat well or regularly, then be sure to ask for help from those around you, to support your nutritional needs.
Avoid Salt and Sugar
Have you been taking three sugars in your tea ever since you can remember? Just because it’s an old habit doesn’t mean it’s a good one. Do you also take a smattering of salt on top of every meal? Many people do not realise how high the salt content is in their meals already and too much salt in the diet puts older people at risk of high blood pressure and associated health problems. Your loved one may be in this habit and may add too much salt due to memory issues. Help them to reduce their intake to prevent any further health issues.
As you age, your body does not have the same reactions to thirst. That is, it is not as sensitive to your need for hydration. As a result, you may need to drink more fluids than you think you do. Dehydration is a significant problem among the older population but it is a simple problem to fix. There may be a risk that you or your loved one forgets to drink fluids. Make drinking liquids more interesting and invite a friend over to try making some smoothies or some variations on boring old water.
Changing your diet does not have to be negative; trying new food and drink can be exciting and cooking is a great shared activity. Keeping nourished will give you more energy to do those things you keep saying you will do, like joining a new walking group or taking up a new exercise class, both of which can also boost the memory.
(Jane Sandwood, August 26 2017)