Monday, August 20, 2012

Alzheimer’s Disease Difficulty Eating

As Alzheimer’s progresses, simple, day-to-day functions become increasingly difficult and mealtimes could present significant challenges for your loved one. They may experience a loss of appetite or interest in food or could forget that they have already eaten. If you notice that your loved one is having difficulty maintaining a healthy, regular diet, there are several things you can do to encourage independence and make mealtimes easier. 

Begin by setting up a regular mealtime and sticking to it so that your loved one always knows when he or she will be eating.  They will be less likely to overeat or forget that they’re supposed to be eating if they’re used to a schedule.  You man need to begin preparing each meal for your loved one as it may be unsafe for them to use a stove or dangerous kitchen utensils.  Limit distractions during mealtimes and keep the table settings simple so that your loved one can focus on their food and eating rather than the television, a table setting or the telephone. 

Keep in mind that your loved ones food preferences may change and be prepared to adapt to their new tastes.  Avoid choking hazards, such as raw vegetables, popcorn, and nuts, and educate yourself on how to perform the Heimlich maneuver and CPR in case there is an accident.  Alzheimer’s patients can become overwhelmed and confused easily, so serve one food at a time, rather than an entire plateful, so they can concentrate on eating.  Encourage your loved one to take his or her time chewing and swallow carefully and check the temperature of their food to be sure it’s neither too hot or too cold, as they may no longer be able to distinguish the difference. 

Though there may come a point when your loved one is unable to feed themselves, it’s important to encourage independence and allow them to eat as much on their own.  Offer finger foods, such as chicken fingers, cheese cubes, cherry tomatoes and cheese slices, if they’re having difficulty using utensils and don’t worry about neatness. If your loved one has a habit of pushing his or her plate or glass around the table, invest in spill proof cups and plates with suction cups so they are easier to manage.  Demonstrate how they should be using their utensils and remind them how to chew so that they are less likely to choke.  Most importantly, make a point to eat every meal together so that you not only get to spend quality time with one another, but so you can keep a watchful eye and make sure they’re actually eating their food and doing so in a safe way. 

Brian Willie is an elder law attorney from Orange County CA who has taught thousands of Alzheimer’s families how to pay for the devastating cost of Alzheimer’s care without going broke. You can learn more at

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