Nutrition and Dementia or Alzheimers

No matter what your age, eating nutritious meals is important for everyone to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. Eating the right kind of foods can boost your brain power, ease pain and even cure certain diseases.

Seniors with dementia or Alzheimers especially need to ensure they are eating the right kind of foods, and drinking enough liquids. Poor nutrition may increase behavioral symptoms and cause weight loss. As a registered nurse practitioner for Living Care Lifestyles, I make sure that our residents in all our communities are provided with proper nutrition to keep their bodies strong and healthy.

When you have a loved one suffering from dementia or Alzheimers, its important to ensure they are provided a good diet. As the disease progresses, loss of appetite and or weight loss may become a concern. There are several causes of a poor appetite you should be aware of:

Changes in smell

Seniors slowly lose their sense of taste and smell, affecting how much they eat and what kind of food they choose. As you age, the body goes through changes that are triggered by both the aging process and changes in nutrition, sleep and exercise that affects the body on a cellular level. These differences impact the sensory system of the body, and may result in seniors not receiving the essential nutrients.

According to author J.M. Boyce, in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, the decline to be able to smell and differentiate smells can be related to a decrease in the number of nerve fibers in the olfactory system. In other words, a reduced number of cells and reduction in sensitivity of those remaining cells, results in a change in the ability of an individual to interpret scent.


Pay close attention to the medications seniors are taking. Especially if a new drug is introduced, or if dosages of current drugs are increased or decreased. These types of changes can affect the appetite. So be sure to check with your healthcare provider at the community, and your prescribing physician if you notice changes of their appetite.

Lack of exercise

Not enough exercise or physical activities will decrease appetite. From sit down volleyball to fun exercise walks, stay active to stay healthy and eat properly.

Not recognizing food

When dementia or Alzheimers progresses, the person may no longer recognize the foods presented to him or her. This can become troublesome, but by offering a wide-variety of foods to your loved ones, it can minimize the way your loved one reacts to what is served to them. Knowing the general causes of a poor appetite is important, but equally important is knowing good nutrition tips for seniors living with dementia or Alzheimers.

Nutrition tips

Regular, nutritious meals may become a challenge as a persons cognitive function declines. He or she may become overwhelmed with too many food choices at once, forget to eat, or has difficulty using utensils. Here are some important nutrition tips for caregivers and others to keep in mind:

Balanced diet Offer a variety of foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein foods (low-fat dairy products, fish, chicken etc.).

Avoid foods with high cholesterol and saturated fats Some fat is essential for health, but not all fat is equal. Provide meals that limit the amount of fats that are bad for the heart and overall health such as butter, lard, fatty cuts of meat, high-fat dairy products, processed fatty foods, etc.

Limit refined sugars Most refined sugars are found in processed foods. Some are listed by other names in the list of ingredients, such as monosaccharides, sorghum, sorghum molasses and many other names so be on the lookout.

Use less salt Most people consume way too much salt and sodium, which can increase blood pressure and can cause a variety of other health-related problems. Use spices or herbs to season foods as an alternative (e.g. Mrs. Dash seasoning).

Knowing the signs of a poor appetite, and offering seniors balanced nutritious meals will go a long way keeping them happy and healthy.