If you’re a caregiver for a loved one who is living with dementia, you may have noticed that their everyday eating habits are shifting. This can happen for several reasons. For one, dementia can affect the areas of the brain that are responsible for taste and smell. When this happens, drinking and eating can become less pleasurable, which can lead to a poor diet and, in extreme cases, malnutrition.
It’s also believed that dementia causes a reduction in insulin levels in the brain. This can also cause unhealthy cravings and detrimental eating habits. Further, as dementia progresses, it can attack the area of the brain that imposes self-control, making it difficult for the person to show restraint and keep a healthy handle on their diet.
Why Diet Is Important for Those Living with Dementia
A healthy diet is important for everyone; however, this is especially true for those living with dementia. This is one of the ways that providers of the highest quality at-home care and live-in care can help their clients — by offering counselling, meal planning, nutrition advice, helping with the ordering of groceries, and the preparation of healthy and balanced meals.
A diet that’s rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes can help our bodies stave off illness by building its natural immunity. A healthy diet can support brain health, all while providing us with the energy to get through the day — to name just three benefits.
So how do you manage when a loved one who’s living with dementia expresses unhealthy cravings for high-sugar and high-calorie foods?
Enjoy Meals Together
One of the benefits of aging in place is that regular meals can be enjoyed in peace and quiet with your loved one. By making mealtimes a peaceful and relaxing routine, your senior loved one can focus on eating at predictable intervals, where they’re more likely to eat a filling, nutrient-rich dinner that dramatically minimizes the potential for cravings later in the day.
Often, mild dehydration can be misconstrued as pangs of hunger, leading to unhealthy eating. Offer your loved one a glass of water throughout the day. Doing so may stave off what’s perceived as hunger, which may curb detrimental snacking and eating habits.
We all have sweet cravings now and again, and while an indulgent treat every so often isn’t going to cause too many problems, ongoing indulgences can be harmful.
Fortunately, there are creative alternatives to calorific desserts that can satiate even the most ardent lover of desserts. Here are just a few ideas for inspiration:
- Dark chocolate and berry popsicles.
- Avocado and cocoa pudding.
- Vibrant fruit and yogurt bowls.
- Peanut butter and oat protein balls.
Not only will substitutions like these hit the spot, but they’re also laden with beneficial vitamins, nutrients, and healthy fats.
The Bottom Line
Retaining a healthy diet is vital for all of us as we age, including those living with dementia. By creating a routine, dining together, and crafting delicious and nutritious alternatives, it’s possible to retain a balanced diet that’s delicious and satisfying and helps to curtail cravings.