Accommodating the Nutritional Needs and Wants of Residents
Eating can truly be one of our greatest pleasures, particularly because it combines so many of the primary senses. Think back to the memory of one of your favorite meals, and you’re bound to remember how the meal looked as it arrived on the plate, the smell of the food as it drifted up to your nose and the unique mouth feel of each item as you took the first bite, chewed and then swallowed. For many of us these kinds of food-related events can be memorable, yet almost commonplace in their frequency, but for those living with all stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia the experience of eating can be drastically different. This is because of alterations to the taste buds caused by the normal aging process and changes caused by the disease that can affect the taste, feel, texture and smell of a food and drastically alter the enjoyment of eating altogether.
The cause of this change is unknown, but scientists hypothesize that individuals who are experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia no long experience flavor in the same way and may have actually lost the ability to remember specific tastes, which can directly affect food preferences and eating behaviors. When this happens it’s normal for these individuals to compensate by either craving heavily flavored or overly sweet foods or losing interest altogether because of the loss of eating pleasure. Depending on the individual, this change can manifest in weight loss or weight gain.
Changes in appetite can also be attributed to not recognizing a particular food, dentures that fit poorly, medication side effects, decreased sense of smell and taste, and lack of activity. At SeniorCare Homes we understand that food plays a vital role in each resident’s life from a practical sense of nourishment and also one of enjoyment. This is why a number of activities at SeniorCare Homes include food as a means of recreation and physical movement such as planting a vegetable garden, taking an outing for an ice cream cone in the evening or enjoying a visit to the local farmer’s market to pick up fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables for family-style meals.
The emphasis on linking food and pleasurable experiences provides the residents of SeniorCare Homes with quality nutrition in an enjoyable family-style eating environment that balances good nutrition (fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products) with a bit of fun, too. Each week our grocery lists feature resident-added additions of their favorite foods, so there’s always a balance of good-for-you dietary options and just-for-fun food choices in every meal served. We have also found that a touch of sugar, especially for residents experiencing late-stage dementia and Alzheimer’s, can encourage those who have lost an interest in eating. Our staff can also accommodate any special resident dietary needs including low-sodium, pureed, soft mechanical (changes in texture and consistency), and thickened liquids.
SeniorCare Homes in Overland Park and Leawood, Kansas, offer the most comfortable and stable assisted living environment to seniors with dementia, memory loss, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Phone (913) 236-0036 to learn more about neighborhood living for the memory impaired.