November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with thinking, behavior and memory. Symptoms usually develop over time and can become severe enough that a person is not able to function on their own. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases. The majority of people with Alzheimer’s disease are age 65 and older. This is a progressive disease that can worsen over time. Alzheimer’s disease has no cure but there are treatments for symptoms that can improve quality of life and help to slow the progression of the disease.
Those with Alzheimer’s disease are at risk for nutritional decline due to a variety of factors including: forgetting to eat, have difficulty with eating utensils or overwhelmed with too many food choices. Providing proper nutrition is key to boosting health and overall quality of life. There is no special diet for people with Alzheimer’s disease, only to provide a well-balanced diet. This includes providing fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grain products. Limiting food high in saturated fats and cholesterol is also important for heart health. As the disease progresses, loss of appetite with weight loss can become a concern. In this case, nutritional supplements can be offered to provide increased calories and protein between or with meals. Many times these individuals may not even recognize favorite foods, so providing them with foods may be more of a challenge. Staying hydrated is also important, people with Alzheimer’s disease may forget to drink often which can lead to dehydration and other illnesses. Encourage fluid intake often or foods high in water content (soups, fruit, smoothies, etc.). Proper nutrition is a key component to all stages of life.