Extra challenges in maintaining good nutrition may be encountered during this world health crisis. Though nutritional recommendations should remain basically unchanged, someone with Alzheimer's or dementia might be experiencing some anxiety which can lead to loss or increase in appetite, food jags or reluctance to eat at all.
Caregivers should stock up on nutrition-packed foods that will stay fresh for a week or longer, such as breads; grains; fruits; vegetables; milk; eggs and cheese; beans; nuts and seeds; frozen chicken; seafood or beef; soups; and broths.
Though frozen dinners are convenient, try to avoid them because of the high sodium, fat and calorie content. And, because many individuals with Alzheimer’s are insatiable when it comes to consuming sweet or salty foods, limit having them in the house.
If the individual is forgetting to eat or showing reluctance, try using an alarm clock or the Amazon Alexa or Google Echo Dot devices as reminders to eat. During mealtimes, reduce noise from television, a radio or speaker systems as they can be disruptive.
Because of the stay-at-home orders, there may be extra people in the household which might be overstimulating or distracting for the affected individual.
However, during mealtimes, staying socially connected to family can bring joy through the dialogues, produce positive and enjoyable experience for everyone, and give meaning and purpose to the life of the affected individual.
Sometimes equally challenging and frustrating are times when the affected individual hits a food jag in which he or she will only eat a certain food or foods. This could last for days or weeks, and the individual may even get upset without it, or hoard or hide that particular food for a later time. In these instances, the caregiver can encourage variety, or that certain food can be adapted into different dishes such as soups, salads and casseroles.
Dehydration is common in those with Alzheimer’s, so hydration should be watched closely. Try to get them to drink six to eight glasses of water or other fluids a day, some at least every two hours. If not water, put milk in cereals or fix soup, ice pops, supplements, etc.
Caregivers often feel stressed or pressured in providing nutritious meals for their loved ones. While many restaurants are closed, restaurant food and grocery delivery services are still up and running.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is no evidence that coronavirus can be transmitted through food or food packaging, though germs can live on surfaces for up to nine days.
Most food delivery services are moving to contactless drop-offs and pickups to minimize the chance of spreading the virus. The safest way of handling food delivery is to transfer it to your own plates and throw away the takeout container. Wipe off counters where bags were placed with disinfectant. Wash your hands afterward for at least 20 seconds. After eating, again disinfect counters.
Additionally, follow normal food safety procedures from the CDC, like refrigerating leftovers within two hours and don’t share eating utensils with other family members.
Be mindful to frequently wash the affected person's hands throughout the day. Singing a song while hand-washing can be enticing and fun and help alleviate any hesitation from the individual.