Alzheimers Diet: 16 Foods To Fight Dementia + What To Avoid
The best Alzheimers diet is Dr. Dale Bredesens KetoFLEX 12/3 diet. This slightly-flexible ketogenic diet can lower your risk of developing Alzheimers disease or dementia, especially in the earliest stages of cognitive decline.
This revolutionary diet also encourages 12-hour fasting periods so the body has more time to repair cell damage. Make sure to not eat within 3 hours of going to bed either.
By eating foods such as green leafy vegetables, fish, nuts, and even an occasional glass of red wine, you can reduce your chances of developing Alzheimers.
When You Need Themand When You Dont
Most people in the last stage of Alzheimers disease have difficulty eating and drinking. At this time, families may wonder if their family member needs a feeding tube.
Families want to do everything possible for someone who is ill. But they often get little information about feeding tubes. And they may feel pressure from doctors or nursing home staff, because feeding is simpler with a feeding tube.
But feeding tubes sometimes do more harm than good. Heres why:
Feeding tubes usually arent helpful for severe Alzheimers disease.
People with severe Alzheimers disease can no longer communicate or do basic things. Chewing and swallowing is often hard. This can cause serious problems, such as weight loss, weakness, and pressure sores. Or food can get into the lungs, and cause pneumonia. So people often need help to eat.
In many cases, a decision is made to use a feeding tube. The tube may be put down the throat. Or it may be put through a small cut in the abdominal wall, into the stomach. The person is then given liquid nutrition through the tube.
But tube feeding is not better than careful hand feedingand it may be worse. It does not help people live longer, gain more weight, become stronger, or regain skills. And it may increase the risk of pneumonia and pressure sores. Hand feeding gives human contact and the pleasure of tasting favorite foods.
Feeding tubes can have risks.
Tube feeding has many risks.
Feeding tubes can cost a lot.
So when are feeding tubes a good idea?
How To Help With Coordination Changes
A person with a dementia often has difficulty feeding themselves. It is important to encourage them when they are eating and drinking as it helps their independence. It also can help the swallowing process.
Things that can help include:
- cutting food up before presenting it
- only giving them the cutlery that is needed
- putting the cutlery or cup directly into their hand
- using plates and tablecloths of different colours
- making sure the table is not cluttered
- serving one course at a time
- using finger foods such as sandwiches, slices of fruit or vegetables and cheese
- giving gentle verbal encouragement, for example, oh this smells lovely
- using gentle physical prompts, for example, place your hand over the persons hand to guide their food or drink to their mouth
- only as a last resort consider feeding them part or all of the meal
- many people will still be able to hold a cup after the ability to use a fork or spoon has been lost, and this should be encouraged
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Preparing For The Next Stage
Insatiable hunger is difficult to deal with, but it wont last forever. In the final stages of Alzheimers, the hunger messages from the hypothalamus cease and eating patterns can swing in the opposite direction. Extreme weight loss is common, and that can set the stage for injury, illness and infection.
After trying to curb weight gain for so long, youll have to focus your efforts on preventing weight loss. This means finding high-calorie foods that are easy and pleasant to eat. Although appetite will wane as Alzheimers progresses, sweet foods are usually still appealing.
Alzheimers is not an easy disease to deal with at any time, but it gets much harder to handle the challenges on your own as time goes on. There are many people in your position who might be able to offer some sound advice, and professionals to help you protect your own health while you care for your loved one. Reach out for support when you need it.
What Health Problems Can It Cause
Not getting enough to eat or drink can lead to:
- Dehydration: To make sure they get enough fluids, give them drinks that are easy to drink and they like. Try flavored water, juices, sport drinks, lemonade, or Popsicles. Itâs common for people with advanced Alzheimerâs disease to stop drinking to the point of dehydration. This is often part of the process at the end of life. If your loved one gets dehydrated often or theyâre in the advanced stages of Alzheimerâs, you should have a plan about whether to use feeding tubes or an IV.
- Weight loss: This can be a sign of other problems, but if someone doesnât eat, this is the most likely cause. If your loved one has lost more than 5 pounds in a week or 10 pounds in a month, they should see a doctor. To help them keep weight on, skip low-fat or low-calorie foods. Serve high-calorie foods, like milkshakes, protein drinks, ice cream, and smoothies. If the weight loss continues, talk to their doctor.
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Rule Out Any Physical Problems
The first thing you should do when a patient stops eating is to rule out any physical problems like mouth sores, toothaches, ill-fitting dentures, infections or medications that may be affecting the patients appetite. If they have stopped eating because of any physical problems, deal with the problem and try change the foods and drinks offered. Give flavored food that requires minimal to zero chewing. Avoid foods with stringy and hard textures or any mixed foods like cereals.
How To Find Help For Caregiving
As the person moves through the stages of Alzheimer’s, he or she will need more care. You may not be able to meet all his or her needs at home anymore. It’s important to know your limits, take care of yourself, and to seek help whenever you need it. Learn more about getting help with Alzheimer’s caregiving and finding ways to care for yourself. If caring for the person has become too much for you, you can also learn more about finding long-term care for a person with Alzheimer’s.
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Solutions To Help Alzheimers / Dementia Patients Eat
The following tips can make eating less stressful for your loved one:
In Early to Mid-Stage
Quiet DownSomeone with dementia may need to concentrate harder to accomplish any task, including eating, so make it easier by lowering noise and activity in the environment. Eat in quiet, clean, simple settings. You want your loved one to feel comfortable, without needing to rush.
Keep It SimpleToo many food options can cause frustration and overwhelm someone with dementia. Plate small portions.
Show HowDemonstrate the steps, like using a fork and knife to cut a piece of meat or spreading jam on toast. Resist the urge to feed your loved one, who may just be missing that one step or cue to continue with the meal.
Smaller BitesUse of utensils becomes more difficult as dementia progresses. Cut food into smaller bite-sized pieces, or serve finger foods.
BowlingServing meals in bowls rather than on plates can facilitate eating, as the sides make it easier to scoop food onto a fork or spoon.
Sip AssistsSomeone with dementia will probably have an easier time drinking if you provide a straw.
Stay HydratedPeople with dementia are less able to recognize their thirst. Watch for signs of dehydration: dry mouth, sticky saliva, and dark urination. Serve your loved one fluids, like water or juice, several times throughout the day . And offer foods that have high water content, including watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, lettuce, soups, yogurt, and cottage cheese.
In Late Stage
Caregivers Guide To Dysphagia In Dementia
Byline: Rinki Varindani Desai is an ASHA-certified medical speech-language pathologist and BIAA-certified brain injury specialist, specializing in the rehabilitation of cognitive-linguistic and swallowing disorders in adults. She is the founder and admin of the Medical SLP Forum, co-author of the mobile app Dysphagia Therapy and co-founder of Dysphagia Grand Rounds. Rinki currently serves on ASHAs SIG 13 Editorial Committee as Associate Editor of Perspectives, on the Dysphagia Research Societys Website, Communications, and PublicRelations Committee and has been selected to participate in ASHAs Leadership Development Program 2017-2018. She has presented at national and international conferences on topics related to adult dysphagia and written numerous articles for leading SLP blogs and magazines. Originally from Mumbai, India Rinki currently practices in Rochester, New York as Healthpro Rehabilitations SLP Team Leader for the Western NY region. You can follow her Medical SLP updates on and or reach out to her at .
Dementia and Dysphagia
Dementia is not one specific disease. It is a broad term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory, communication, and other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a persons ability to perform everyday activities .
Dysphagia Signs and Symptoms
Common Causes of Dysphagia in Dementia
Consequences of Dysphagia
Mealtime enhancement tips for caregivers
Adaptive Equipment and Finger Foods
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How To Help With Memory And Concentration Changes
Over time, a person with a dementia can have difficulties concentrating and sitting at a table to eat a meal.
If you are caring for a person with a dementia, you might think:
- they have finished eating
- they aren’t hungry
If they don’t eat enough or eat unhealthy food, they can become vulnerable to other illnesses. People with a dementia can become more confused if they get ill.
To encourage them to eat and drink, you can:
- invite them to the table when the meal is ready so they dont have to wait
- direct their attention to the food
- put the cutlery or cup in their hand if needed or guide them to take the first mouthful
- feed them the first mouthful if necessary and then encourage them to feed themselves
- remind them to swallow each mouthful as needed
- use gentle physical prompts, like putting the cutlery or cup back in their hands
- if they leave the table, gently guide them back and prompt them to continue
- if they forget they have already eaten or are concerned about when is their next meal, reassure them and provide them with a snack if appropriate
- eat with them, this makes eating a social activity and can help them stay independent as they may copy what you are doing
- keep encouraging them to feed themselves, if they are having difficulties, feed them some or all of the meal
Signs Of Dying In The Elderly With Dementia
Dementia is a general term for a chronic or persistent decline in mental processes including memory loss, impaired reasoning, and personality changes. Alzheimers disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all cases of dementia. It is also the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, and over 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimers disease.
Alzheimers disease and most progressive dementias do not have a cure. While the disease inevitably worsens over time, that timeline can vary greatly from one patient to the next.
Caring for a loved one can be challenging and stressful, as the individuals personality changes and cognitive function declines. They may even stop recognizing their nearest and dearest friends and relatives. As dementia progresses, the individual will require more and more care. As a family caregiver, its important to be able to recognize the signs of dying in elderly with dementia. Hospice can help by offering care wherever the individual resides, providing physical, emotional and spiritual care to the patient and support their family.
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The Mind Diet: 10 Foods That Fight Alzheimer’s
Doctors have been saying for years that what you eat can affect the health of your heart. Now there’s growing evidence that the same is true for your brain.
A new study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago shows a diet plan they developed — appropriately called the MIND diet — may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53 percent.
Even those who didn’t stick to the diet perfectly but followed it “moderately well” reduced their risk of Alzheimer’s by about a third.
Diet appears to be just one of “many factors that play into who gets the disease,” said nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris, PhD, the lead author of the MIND diet study. Genetics and other factors like smoking, exercise and education also play a role. But the MIND diet helped slow the rate of cognitive decline and protect against Alzheimer’s regardless of other risk factors.
The study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, looked at more than 900 people between the ages of 58 and 98 who filled out food questionnaires and underwent repeated neurological testing. It found participants whose diets most closely followed the MIND recommendations had a level of cognitive function the equivalent of a person 7.5 years younger.
The MIND diet breaks its recommendations down into 10 “brain healthy food groups” a person should eat and five “unhealthy food groups” to avoid.
Foods That Are Risk Factors For Alzheimers
Many foods in the Western diet have been identified as risk factors for dementia and Alzheimers, including red and processed meats, refined grains, sweets, and desserts. Excess alcohol intake, saturated fatty acids, and foods with a high number of calories are also risk factors for Alzheimers. If you think that you or a loved one may be at risk for Alzheimers, work with your doctor on developing a healthier diet and nutrition plan that greatly reduces the risk.
Healthcare Associates of Texas offer memory loss treatments that may help improve or reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimers disease. Request an appointment today to begin the treatment process and benefit from improved overall brain health.
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Eating And Drinking For A Person With Dementia
Dementia often has an impact on peoples appetite and ability to eat and drink. Read our advice on some of the changes you might notice and how to support the person you care for.
People with dementia may experience problems with eating and drinking, and its quite common for their appetite to change as their condition progresses.
- forget to eat or drink
- not recognise when they are hungry, thirsty or full
- have trouble preparing food or drinks
- struggle to recognise food items
- have a change in appetite or taste
- find certain colours, textures or smells of food off-putting
- struggle to follow particular diets, for example for diabetes, coeliac disease, or religious or cultural diets
- have difficulty handling cutlery and feeding themselves
- find it difficult to swallow
- develop a sweet tooth
Helping a person with dementia to maintain a healthy diet can be difficult, but its important to encourage them to eat well. You could try:
A person with dementia may not always be able to recognise when they are thirsty, or communicate their thirst. This means it can be difficult for them to drink the recommended eight to 10 glasses or mugs of fluid per day. You could try:
- making sure the person always has a drink beside them
- offering squash if they dislike water
- offering a choice of hot and cold drinks
- helping if they are struggling to pick up or hold a cup
- offering different shapes and sizes of cup
- using a favourite mug, glass or cup, if they have one
When Eating Becomes An Issue: Choosing A Feeding Tube
As dementia progresses, eating and drinking becomes more and more challenging for the patient. While there are many techniques for helping people with dementia to eat, families sometimes have to decide whether or not to use a feeding tube for their loved ones with late-stage dementia.
This is a complex, difficult and controversial decision, and one that should be made carefully for your loved one’s unique situation with the help of doctors.
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Be Patient While Trying To Help Someonewith Dementia Not Eating
Trying to convince a person living with dementia who is at the point of not eating, that they must eat is counterproductive. Trying to explain why is also detrimental.
You need to be the food guide. Your role as the guide is to show this person how to eat each and every bite, just like its the first time they have ever eaten. Keep using strong eye contact and a nice big smile and not disrupt the person by talking.
It can be frustrating when you are trying to help someone and it is not working as effectively as you may hope. Its like teaching a child to tie their shoelaces, or of course, to eat their vegetables!
They will watch how you do it and slowly copy, but if you dont show them a demonstration they are not going to be able to learn. If you find yourself becoming agitated, take a deep breathe, and have another try.
If your relative with dementia becomes agitated or frustrated in the afternoon and evening, this may be due to ‘sundowning’. Find out more about what it is and how you can manage it from our sundowning guide.
Omega 3 And Oily Fish
Omega 3s essential fatty acids have an important part to play in the structure of our brain cells, helping to maintain the health and functioning of our brain. Research undertaken as part of the Older People And n-3 Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid study supported the view that eating oily fish is associated with better cognitive function in later life, but recommended further work to clarify the impact of these essential omega 3 oils on the brain .
We need omega 3 oils from food as they cannot be made efficiently by the body. Oily fish is a rich source of omega 3s essential vitamins and minerals and it is recommended that we have at least one portion of oily fish a week. Guidelines vary though according to the individual see the Food Standards Agency website, www.eatwell.gov.uk/healthydiet/fss/fats/ for further information. Omega 3 oils may also be found in vegetarian sources such as linseeds, rapeseed oil, walnuts and soya beans.
The European Commission-funded LipiDiDiet project is researching the impact of omega 3 and other key nutrients on the risk of developing Alzheimers disease and vascular dementia. Results should be available in 2015. For more information go to www.lipididiet.eu
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