Dementia is the loss of memory, cognitive reasoning, awareness of environment, judgment, abstract thinking, or the ability to perform activities of daily living. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that involves slowly developing symptoms that get worse over time. Dementia resulting from vitamin deficiencies, or caused by underlying disease (such as brain tumors and infections) may be reversible. Other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, are not reversible, and are often treated with medications.
As dementia progresses, changes can occur that may affect someone’s ability to obtain adequate food and nutrients to maintain their health status. Such changes will vary depending on the type of dementia, as well as the stage of the disease. Some of these changes include:
- Altered sense of smell and/or taste
- Inability to recognize food or distinguish between food and non-food items
- Poor appetite
- Chewing difficulties (pocketing food, repetitive chewing, etc.)
- Swallowing difficulties
- Forgetting to eat
- Shortened attention span leading to a loss of interest in eating
- Difficulty using eating utensils
- Increase in pacing or walking
- Drug side effects
The symptoms of dementia vary, and the treatment and nutrition care should be determined by these symptoms. Some techniques to consider for continued delivery of food and nutrition include:
- Provide kind reminders to eat.
- Provide meals in a low stress environment, minimizing noise and visual
- Develop a meal routine that can be repeated over time, to provide meals at
- similar times, or even similar meals every day.
- Have someone eat with the individual to provide assistance and reminders
- on how to eat.
- Have family join the individual at meal times to encourage eating.
- Pay attention to other health issues, such as infections, fevers, injuries, or
- other illnesses, as these may increase food and fluid needs.
- Provide well-liked food and drinks to encourage eating.
- Limit the amount of food served at one time so as not to overwhelm.
Provide finger-type foods for individuals struggling to use utensils:
- French fries
- Carrot sticks
Check with a dietitian or doctor for any specific dietary needs.
As I sat listening to Mr. A work his brain out, on the Dakim BrainFitness machine, he turned to me and said, “You know your memory is a very important thing. You will see so much in this life and your memory keeps track of it all.” I pondered this for a moment. He’s right. Every important event, face, and activity is all stored in my memory. Could you imagine losing it all?
Unfortunately, a decline in memory is a reality with age. As people age, their ability to remember often declines, even if they don’t suffer from dementia or another mental illness. This could be due to many factors including:
- The shrinking of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a small organ in the brain that is involved in memory, especially long-term memory.
- The repair process declines. Brain cells often need repaired but, the hormones that repair them decline with age. This could lead to fewer functioning brain cells and an impaired memory.
- A decline in blood flow to the brain is also common with age. This can impair memory but, it can also affect cognitive skills such as reading.
Luckily, progress has been made to prevent these changes. In a clinical trial conducted by the UCLA School of Medicine, Dakim BrainFitness was shown to significantly improve the two most important cognitive functions — memory and language abilities — and users strengthened attention, focus, and concentration.
And let me tell you, it works for Mr. A! As he and I continued our conversation, he sang his favorite song (Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue, 1925), recited a bible verse starting with every letter of the alphabet, and told me vivid, detailed stories from when he was a teacher.
Our residents have fun working on the Dakim BrianFitness machines and they keep their memory in tip-top shape! We are proud to have some of the few machines in Ohio.
Resources: apa.org, helpguide.org, ucla.edu
When a family members memory fades, it can be very difficult for you to cope. But, with these tips, you may find peace with your parent’s condition. They may help to keep the bond that you are longing for.
Don’t expect them to fulfill promises.
If you tell them to do something, or better yet, not to do something, they may not remember this information. Be sure to lower your expectations of what they are capable of, now that they have been diagnosed with this disease.
Don’t argue with them.
No matter how logical your argument, they may not understand. For example, if you are at the park and they insist that they want to go to the park, try taking them to a park down the road instead of arguing that you are already there.
Remember, it’s the disease.
Patience is key. Keep in mind that it is something your loved one doesn’t have control over. Remembering this will make it easier to face some of the challenges that may present themselves.
Talk to their doctor about their condition.
In order to give them the best care, talk to their doctor. It may be safer for your loved one to live in a memory care unit. Where they are secure. Depending on the type, and severity of the memory loss there may be medical interventions that can be used too.
Take care of yourself.
Taking care of yourself is so important when dealing with any stressful situation, especially when it pertains to a loved one. Take a hot bath or read a book to unwind. It may help you to get your mind off everything for a bit.
Memory loss can be hard for everyone involved. What tips do you have for families struggling with memory loss?
Fall is the best time for crafts! As the weather cools off, it’s time to enjoy warm apple cider and an afternoon of painting, carving or sewing. Here are our top 3 fall crafts to try with your loved one.
Crafting fall planters is a must if your loved one is a plant lover. These can be made by purchasing traditional pots and painting fall quotes and pictures. If you want to take it a step further you can create planters with hollowed out pumpkins. These pumpkins can also be painted or carved. If carving images into the pumpkin, be sure to just graze the surface, as you do not want to put a hole in the front of the pumpkin.
On a sunny afternoon, take a walk and collect acorns. These can be painted to be pumpkins, scarecrows or even haunted houses! Let their imagination run free.
Get ready for winter by crafting goofy gloves this fall. You and your loved one can sew phrases such as ‘Cat Lover’ onto the finger tips, or back of the gloves. If you and your loved one are really skilled, then try to sew an image on the gloves!
These activities will make for such a fun fall visit with your loved one. These activities will keep their mind active and can be done even if you have small kids tagging along for the afternoon.
P.S. Don’t forget the apple cider!