We had the privilege of having Amanda I’ons (Registered dietician) at our Somerset West support group on the 26th of July 2017, to talk about the nutritional needs and considerations of someone living with dementia.
Please find some information and tips below that she shared in our group:
- Threatening foods to the brain include too much saturated fats copper and aluminium.
- Protectors of the brain include vitamin E, vitamin B12, fresh vegetables and fruit, protein and omega 3 fatty acids.
- Fluid intake is vital, ensure that your loved one with dementia takes in enough fluid, consequences of not taking in enough fluid includes urinary tract infections, constipation, fatigue, chemical imbalance, joint pain and a build-up of toxins. These consequences can leave persons with dementia more confused and disorientated which results in greater fall risks. The best is to create a water routine for the person living with dementia, ensuring that they drink water or other fluids at certain times of the day (e.g. At breakfast, just before lunch and just before dinner)
- Medication and food interactions: It is important to be aware of any negative interactions between medication and food. Some include grapefruit and medications, warfarin and omega 3 fatty acids.
- Hormone free meats and eggs are a healthier option for persons living with dementia and have a lower toxic load, but do come at a higher price.
- It has been determined that the Mediterranean diet is best for persons living with dementia. This diet is rich in olive oil, fresh vegetables, fish (omega 3 fatty acids), snacking, water, whole grains and legumes.
- During the earlier stages of dementia, use food as a way to show your love, cook well known and loved dishes for your loved one living with dementia as this brings back memories and encourages communication.
- Fibre intake is vital; the average person should consume 20-40grams of fibre daily.
- Low GI foods are best as they don’t cause a huge spike in blood sugar and help you to feel fuller for longer. Low GI foods include legumes, whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables.
- Ensure that your loved one’s soft diet is appetising and has diversity.
- When considering sugar replacements, be cautious of giving the person too much artificial sweeteners as this still triggers the release of insulin and glucose response. If wanting to replace some of the sugar, consider stevia and xylitol.
- During the later stages of dementia, your loved one absorbs less nutrients through food and fluids for a number of reasons, they may have problems swallowing and are at higher risk of aspiration, they are not able to chew and manipulate their food as they used to, they may not feel hunger and thirst and the gut loses its ability to absorb nutrients, thus your loved one may be eating but not picking up and weight.
Nutrition is such an important part of the holistic care approach, ensure that your loved one living with dementia at home receives a diet rich in variety, colour, textures and familiar foods.
Lou-Ann van Heerden