Diet to Maintain Health, Well-being of Alzheimer’s Patients: A Nutritionist’s View

Diet to Maintain Health, Well-being of Alzheimer’s Patients: A Nutritionist’s View
When it comes to nutrition support for Alzheimer's disease, we often focus on nutrient- and energy-specific recommendations to support cognitive brain function and the gut microbiome, as well as to reduce inflammation.  A lesser-known consideration however, is the importance of assessing and prioritizing the ability, energy, and functionality of the patient in relation to the ability to eat food. All too often, malnutrition, secondary to changes in functionality, becomes a key factor in the deterioration of health status within this vulnerable population.  Loss of appetite due to sensory changes and dysphagia (difficulty swallowing) are risk factors for malnutrition in Alzheimer’s. If caregivers don’t pay close attention, it is easy to overlook that the patient may not be receiving the nutrition they need, which can lead to further deficits and health decline.  Cognitive impairment diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia reflect a higher degree of swallowing difficulty. According to a 2012 study, “most commonly, patients with dementia demonstrate a slowing of the swallowing process. Slowed swallow processes may increase time taken to finish a meal and subsequently increase the risk for poor nutritional status. Furthermore, patients with dementia often have difficulties self-feeding. These difficulties may relate to cognitive impairment, motor deficits such as weakness or apraxia, loss of appetite, and/or food avoidance.”  The important role of attentive and intuitive caregivers cannot be stressed enough, and their ability to pick up on cues can be crucial. Below are some risk factors to consider when it comes to feeding people with Alzheimer’s disease: Forgetting to eat and drink  Difficulty communicating hunger and thirst  Ina
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