by Frena Gray-Davidson
heck is that all about?" she stared at me belligerently.
When I moved in with Hannah, the first person I ever looked after with Alzheimer's, I
noticed she ate all the food on one side of her plate and didn't touch the other side
unless I turned the plate round. I also wondered what that was all about.
Having Alzheimer's dementia certainly complicates the food thing. We can simplify
the basic issue. these folks have to eat. Studies have shown that people with
Alzheimer's use up about 4,000 calories a day. That's a road builder's food load.
Why they need that much is debatable. My non-medical guess is that it is the
beleaguered brain struggling to process thought and memory against all the barriers.
Remember how studying intensely makes you really hungry? Brain work, even failing
brain work, eats up calories. It's well known that people with dementia love their
sugar. Cookies, ice cream, popsicles.
The brain needs three different kinds of sugars to operate, none of them coming
from cookies or ice cream, but it probably accounts for the great sugar hunger.
Caregivers could do what they can to raise the healthy sugar input, to meet the
need, but hide the cookies, don't even stock the ice cream bars or popsicles or be
willing to padlock the freezer.
My non-medical suggestion on food is that, unless there are real medica reasons for
exclusion of salt, butter, caffeine, sugar, then just put that back in the cooking. We
need to tempt elders to eat, not bland them to death. Someone who's already lived
to the mid-80s can eat whatever doesn't kill them, so there. Did I mention, I'm not a
Five Ways to satisfy Alzheimer's eaters:
1. Step up the flavor of what you cook -- using herbs, spices, molasses, honey,
lemon and orange zest and more;
2. Unless there are real medical reasons not to, of course you can use real butter,
real olive oil, real salt and real eggs and they make everything taste better;
3. Use bright colorful foods to make things look good on the plate;
4. Smaller portions and more smaller meals a day might work better;
5. Respect people's comfort needs, even if you don't understand them. Separate the
items on the plate, turn the plate round so everything gets eaten. These are probably
all brain perception issues.
Five Ways to Add Healthy Sugars:
1. Make fruit bars with real fruit;
2. Use wholegrain flour, for complex sugars, and make fruit pies, healthy muffins;
3. Honey, molasses, maple syrup, prickly pear syrup are all better ways to get sugar;
4. Think fruit smoothies, using organic wholefat yogurt;
5. Small snacks of ripe sweet fruit -- sliced peeled apples, orange slices.
As Julia would say, bon appetit!
About The Author
Frena Gray-Davidson is a longterm Alzheimer's caregiver and her latest book is
"Alzheimer's 911: Hope, Help and Healing for Caregivers", available from
. Frena presents dementia seminars nationally and
internationally. Go to her website at and sign up for her
free monthly email newsletter for caregivers.
Henry would sneak ice-cream bars
out of the freezer whenever his wife's
back was turned. He might have had
Alzheimer's but, by gosh, he knew
where the good stuff was kept.
"What can I do to stop him?" his wife
asked at the support group.
Maud would sit and stare at her plate
of food, unwilling to eat any of it until
her daughter did what was needed.
"She won't eat a damn thing unless I
separate all the food into different
colors so they don't touch. What the
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