The notion that malnutrition might be occurring in a loved one might come as a shock to families living in Overland Park, Mission Hills, Leawood or Kansas City. But malnutrition in seniors can be hard to detect, and seniors with memory loss are particularly vulnerable.
Memory loss and loss of appetite often go hand in hand. The neuropathways between the digestive system and the brain can deteriorate, which can mean that the person with dementia may not actually know whether he or she is hungry. Moreover, a person with dementia can forget whether she has eaten or not.
Unless a caregiver is preparing meals or tracking diet, people with dementia can limit themselves to eating certain foods that taste good and are easy to eat, but which lack proper nutrients. Certain medications can also cause a decrease in appetite, resulting in weight loss and malnutrition.
Here’s what you can do:
- Monitor meals—make sure that your loved one is getting enough of the right things to eat at the right time. Items in the fridge may need to be rotated every few days. Label prepared foods so that the right food is eaten at the right time.
- Weigh in—have your loved one step on a scale regularly, and monitor his or her weight. Ask a doctor for parameters and tracking ideas.
- Look for changes in energy levels—a normally active adult who seems listless or more forgetful than usual may be malnourished.
- Set alarms and reminders to make sure your loved one eats regular meals.