Caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is a challenge that presents new difficulties almost daily. One area caregivers may particularly struggle with is mealtime. It can be quite a challenge to maintain a patient’s nutrition when they often aren’t willing to eat. So, how can a caregiver successfully encourage a daily meal regimen?
1. Control the environment – Alzheimer’s patients are heavily influenced by the temperature of a room. If they feel the room is too hot or too cold, they may refuse to eat. Be aware of the temperature and adjust it to keep the patient comfortable.
2. Control yourself – Patients don’t care that you have worked hard to put a good meal before them; they may still become difficult and refuse to eat. Guard yourself at such junctures, and don’t let any anger or frustration show. These emotions will only further agitate your patient, increasing their obstinacy.
3. Keep it small – Cut any food into bite-size chunks. This will make eating easier and limit any choking hazard. If a patient is struggling with utensils, bite-size pieces can easily become finger food.
4. Condense nutrition – With an Alzheimer’s patient, less is more. Try more for foods that are heavily packed with nutrients. Consider using power bars or even protein shakes like Ensure. That way, even if the patient doesn’t eat very much, they are still getting a high quantity of nutrients.
5. Keep things flexible – Be willing to change your schedule. If the patient becomes agitated and refuses to eat, be willing to wait at mealtime. Consider distracting them with a fun or relaxing activity and come back to the table later. You are more likely to get compliance later than if you try to force mealtime now.
6. Keep it simple – A simple layout and simple foods will help keep your patient (and you) from getting frustrated.