Proper Nutrition for Older Adults and Residents With Alzheimer’s
Proper Nutrition Can Be a Challenge
Even for those who are young and healthy, it can be a challenge to incorporate the nutrients essential to healthy living into our daily diets. But for those living in nursing homes or in assisted living residences, undernutrition from undereating can be a real danger. For caregivers and staff of long-term care facilities, knowing the reasons behind an apparent lack of appetite in their residents and possible solutions, can go a long way in ensuring that daily nutritional needs are met.
Nutrition Is Not Always Easy
For many elderly patients, treatments for health issues may be limiting their appetite. Many medications have appetite suppressing side effects, and treatments that result in nausea can also limit the amount of food a resident can consume.1 The disorders themselves can hinder eating as well. Neurological diseases may make it challenging to control the muscles needed for oral food consumption, sometimes making it painful to eat.2
While some of these issues require individualized care, there are practices that LTC facilities can put in place to encourage increased appetites among their patients. Using larger plates, for instance, tricks the mind into believing that the portion served is smaller than its actual size. Additionally, by encouraging socialization during meals, moods are lifted, and appetites may return. Cooking staff can also add variety into the tastes and flavors of meals served, which can often be enough to increase the desire to eat.
Changing How We Look at Food
Residents with Alzheimer’s pose new challenges when it comes to eating. Not only do many of the already mentioned impediments exist, but there is also a cognitive dissonance between what is served and what the patient sees. It’s all well and good to serve a balanced diet, but if a patient can’t distinguish the food from the plate it sits on, not much will be eaten. Seeking a solution, scientists at Boston University found that Alzheimer’s patients who were served meals on red plates ate 25% more than those served the same meal on white plates.3 The researchers found that presenting food on a high contrast background, like a bold colored plate, could mitigate the loss of visual perception the patient was experiencing.4
Red Plates: Designed with Elderly Patient’s in Mind
At AliMed, we take these same principles and apply it to our assistive dining aids. Our red dinnerware sets provide a high-contrast background to food, making it easier for patients with declining vision to see what’s on the plate and is less likely to show stains. Our brightly colored plates are also likely to increase food intake for people with Alzheimer’s 5.