Healthy Food Options for Adults with Alzheimer’s

Healthy Food Options for Adults with Alzheimer’s

Dear Donna:

I’m the primary caregiver for my husband, who has Alzheimer’s. Among the many challenges the disease presents is eating. He struggles to manipulate utensils but gets upset if I try to help him. I need to come up with some foods that are nutritious but easy for my husband to eat independently. Do you have any suggestions for healthy foods to serve adults with Alzheimer’s?

The other challenge I’m trying to overcome is how to encourage my husband to eat. I just can’t get him to sit down and eat at mealtimes. Because of it, he continues to lose weight.

I’m in need of some good advice, so any tips you can share would be much appreciated!


Alice in Williamsport, MI

Menu Planning When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

Dear Alice:

What great questions! We often hear these from family caregivers. Because Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, nutrition challenges continue to worsen as time goes by.

First, let’s tackle why your husband might not be eating. In addition to being frustrated by his lack of manual dexterity like you mentioned, your husband might be experiencing vision changes.

Adults with Alzheimer’s often develop problems with depth perception and color discrimination. That can make it tough to see food served on a plate or bowl of similar color. Diced peaches served in a pale pink or yellow bowl, for example, can be tough to see.

Other common reasons adults with Alzheimer’s disease might not seem interested in eating include:

  • A distracting dining environment, such as one that is cluttered or has background noise
  • A loss of sense of smell or taste
  • A lack of interest in food due to medication side effects or undiagnosed depression
  • Dentures that no longer fit properly or a problem with a tooth that makes chewing painful

A few steps you can take to encourage your husband’s interest in food might be:

  • Changing the dining environment: Create a peaceful, clutter-free place for him to eat. If he responds positively to music, play it softly in the background. It also helps to use brightly colored dishes that make food easier to distinguish. The Red Plate Study at Boston University found people with Alzheimer’s ate 25 percent more food if it was presented on red dinnerware.
  • Using adaptive dinnerware: Talk with your husband’s primary care physician or an occupational therapist about adaptive dinnerware. Plate guards and food bumpers, for example, make it easier for food to be scooped up with a utensil. Large utensils with grips also help.
  • Utilizing aromatherapy: Since taste can fade with Alzheimer’s, serving more flavorful foods may help. Going a little heavier on seasonings might offer an aromatherapeutic value that pumps up appetite. While it might taste like too much seasoning to you, someone with Alzheimer’s might find it just right.
  • Encouraging exercise: Engaging in some form of exercise each day may help stimulate your husband’s appetite. Talk with his primary care doctor for advice on what types of fitness activities might be safest.
  • Scheduling a dental appointment: If your husband hasn’t seen the dentist in a while, it’s probably a good idea to schedule an appointment. The dentist can check for any issues that might impact eating.

As far as easy-to-eat foods to serve your husband, “Healthy Finger Foods for Seniors with Dementia” is a great resource to read and bookmark. It has a variety of ideas ranging from French toast sticks to smoothies.

I hope this information is helpful to you and your husband!

Kind regards,


What Is Parkinson’s Dementia?

What Is Parkinson’s Dementia?

There are many types of dementia. Alzheimer’s is the most common and well-known type. Alzheimer’s is estimated to account for up to 80% of all cases of dementia. Like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is classified as a neurodegenerative disease. It occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough dopamine, the chemical required for smooth muscle movement.

As PD progresses, it can cause balance problems as well as tremors and rigidity in the limbs. Those are the symptoms most people associate with PD, but a lesser-known side effect of Parkinson’s is dementia.

Common during the later stages of PD, this aspect of the disease can be a challenge for family caregivers. Researchers believe up to 80% of adults with Parkinson’s will eventually develop dementia. As is true of other types of dementia, the condition can create unique safety issues.

Understanding Parkinson’s Dementia

The symptoms of Parkinson’s dementia are similar to other forms of dementia. While the disease impacts every person differently, the symptoms below are among the most common:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Change in disposition
  • Inability to carry on a conversation
  • Insomnia and other sleep disorders
  • Quick to anger or become tearful
  • Difficulty finding the right words
  • Loss of judgment

Supporting the Needs of an Adult with Parkinson’s

Unlike Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease impacts people at a younger age, usually around 60. The person might be towards the end of their career and looking forward to retirement when they are diagnosed. Some have kids in college. It’s a scenario that can lead to both physical and financial challenges for the entire family.

In the mid-to-late stages of the disease, families might find an adult day program meets the person’s needs during daytime hours. That can allow a spouse to continue working. Hiring an in-home caregiver might be another short-term solution to consider, especially if safety is a concern.

Other families turn to assisted living communities for support because they offer a variety of solutions. Short-term respite care at an assisted living for a week or two allows family caregivers to take a break. As their loved one’s needs increase, the transition to assisted living on a long-term basis goes more smoothly. The staff and the new resident are already familiar with each other.

Assisted living communities combine support with independence. An adult with PD can live in their own apartment knowing the support of caregivers is nearby. Caregivers also help with activities of daily living, such as bathing and grooming. They also provide medication management services. Healthy meals, housekeeping, laundry services, and transportation are included or available. Equally important is the wide range of daily life enrichment activities. That helps improve quality of life.

If an adult with PD develops dementia after moving to assisted living, they can transfer to the community’s specialized dementia care unit. These programs are designed to support the unique needs of people with dementia. From dedicated dining services to meaningful daily activities, memory care allows residents to live their best quality of life despite the disease.

If an adult in your family has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or Parkinson’s dementia, we encourage you to call the Heritage Senior Community nearest you. One of our experienced team members can help you learn more about respite, assisted living, and specialized dementia care for your loved one.

How to Spark Joy in a Senior with Alzheimer’s

How to Spark Joy in a Senior with Alzheimer’s

If a senior in your family has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, you might find yourself wondering how they are feeling. As the disease impairs their communication skills, it can be tough to assess their emotional well-being. Dementia experts have long believed that people with even advanced Alzheimer’s and dementia can experience sadness and joy. However, there wasn’t any concrete evidence to prove it.

In 2010, a study conducted at the University of Iowa showed how emotions linger after memory fails. Let’s look at the study and how you can spark joy for adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

What Research Shows about Alzheimer’s, Emotions, and Memory

The study was comprised of 34 older adults who were split into two groups: a group of adults with Alzheimer’s disease and a group of healthy adults.

Researchers first asked each participant how they were feeling and documented their responses. Once a baseline emotional status was determined, participants were shown eight movie and television scenes considered to be sad. Five minutes after participants were done watching the scenes, researchers asked each participant what they remembered and how they felt. They repeated these questions after 15 minutes and then again 30 minutes later.

After taking a five-minute break, the study resumed.

This time, participants were shown movie and television clips believed to stimulate joy and happiness. Researchers then asked each participant the same sequence of follow-up questions as before.

The study seemed to indicate that even though the participants with Alzheimer’s couldn’t recall what they watched, they did remember how the scenes made them feel. Their memories were gone, but the emotions lingered. Unfortunately, this research suggests that sadness is the emotion that lasts the longest.

While this study was small, it offers preliminary support for the need to create meaningful days and a positive environment for adults with Alzheimer’s. So, what can you do to spark joy for a loved one with dementia? Here are a few ideas you might find helpful.

Creating Happy Days for Adults with Dementia

  • Exercise: Physical activity can help calm anxiety. It also promotes feelings of accomplishment and purpose, especially outdoor activities. Walking is a great option. During colder months, stretching or chair yoga can boost happiness.
  • Music: Music therapy has well-documented therapeutic benefits. Play music from your loved one’s happiest days. If they are able, encourage them to dance or shuffle around a bit with you. They will not only benefit from the activity, but from the memories the music sparks. If you have kids in the house, try to get them to join you!
  • Gardening: This is another life enrichment activity shown to benefit those with Alzheimer’s disease. Get supplies for a stand up or raised garden bed, container garden, or window box. These forms of gardening have a lower risk for falls. A word of caution: use only non-toxic plants in case the older adult ingests them. You might want to quickly review this list of toxic plants.
  • Nature: People don’t always realize what a stressbuster spending time in nature can be. For an adult with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, caring for birds, watching the butterflies, and just relaxing in the sunshine can lift the spirit.
  • Arts and crafts: One of the best parts of enjoying arts and crafts is the variety of ability levels these projects can encompass. From simple activities like putting photos in an album to more detailed ones like watercolor painting, the very process of creating is empowering.
  • Pets: While you might not have time to adopt a dog or cat, a visit to a petting zoo or humane society might give your loved one a chance to enjoy a little pet therapy. Some rescue organizations look for volunteers to spend time with the animals they are trying to rehome. You could make it a weekly outing if your senior loved one is able to safely do so.

Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage

At Heritage Senior Communities, we understand the vital role life enrichment activities play in promoting joy and self-esteem in our residents with dementia. From raised gardening beds to music therapy, residents in our dementia care neighborhoods enjoy specialized programming designed to work with their abilities. Call the Heritage dementia care community nearest you to learn more today!

Self-Care Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Self-Care Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

More people than ever are becoming family caregivers. Being the caregiver for a senior loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease can be both rewarding and exhausting. While it is often a labor of love, managing the complex needs of an older adult with memory loss is stressful. Add in a global pandemic and it’s easy to understand why caregivers may be feeling drained.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 16 million family members are caregivers for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s. That adds up to more than 17 billion hours of unpaid care a year. It can impact everything from mental health to work schedules.

What It’s Like to Care for a Senior with Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s caregivers often juggle a host of physical challenges and emotions. They range from chronic fatigue to guilt, sadness, and loneliness. Caregivers often miss out on family gatherings and quality time with friends because their senior loved one isn’t safe to stay alone.

Watching someone you love slowly lose their health and dignity is difficult to process. It is often called “the long goodbye” and can result in depression among caregivers. But that isn’t the only health issue family caregivers encounter. They also experience health problems such as:

  • Headaches
  • Digestive issues
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disorders
  • Back problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Unintended weight gain or loss

This is why it’s important to practice healthy self-care when you are tending to the needs of a loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Self-Care for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

  • Don’t skip gatherings: Even if you have to do so virtually, participate in family and friend gatherings. While the COVID-19 pandemic is making this tougher for everyone, apps like Zoom and Skype are the next best thing to being in person. Ask your loved ones to bring you in virtually during their get togethers, even if only for a short period of time. It will give your spirit a boost.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet: When your to-do list is long, it’s easy to rely on foods from convenience stores and fast food restaurants. These can be high in carbs, unhealthy fats, and sodium, none of which is good for you. They contribute to health conditions like heart disease and diabetes, while also leaving you feeling fatigued. If you haven’t tried it already, consider a meal delivery service such as Blue Apron or Hello Fresh. Ingredients and recipes will be delivered to your doorstep each week. That cuts down on shopping, prepping, and cooking time while allowing you and your family to eat well.
  • Exercise: While exercise might seem like a luxury to an Alzheimer’s caregiver, it’s a must for maintaining mental and physical health. It also helps beat stress, improve sleep, and build a stronger immune system. If you can’t work out for 30 continuous minutes during the day, break it up into 10– or 15–minute blocks of time. You’ll reap the same benefits as a longer workout.
  • Accept help: Caregivers often resist asking for or accepting help, feeling it is their duty to care for their family member. Letting others help is important to your long-term ability to provide care. If you don’t have a friend or family member who can pitch in, consider respite care at a memory care community. Depending upon current COVID-19 restrictions in the area, a senior can be a guest of an assisted living or memory care community for a few days or weeks. That gives family members a chance to rest and recharge.

Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities

Heritage Senior Communities have a well-deserved reputation for excellence in specialized dementia care. From person-centered care to thoughtfully prepared meals, we invite you to call a community near you to learn more today!

Practical Safety Tips When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

Practical Safety Tips When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

When an aging parent has Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, adult children face unique challenges. Protecting a parent with memory loss can be tough. Initially, you might need to assist with paying bills and managing household finances. It is common for people with dementia to struggle with these tasks.

As the disease progresses, there are a variety of issues loved ones will need to monitor and take precautions for. These include kitchen fires, wandering, and medication management. If you are the caregiver for or family member of an adult who has Alzheimer’s, these tips will be useful.

How to Keep a Senior with Alzheimer’s Safe at Home

  1. Take advantage of GPS technology: Research shows 6 out of 10 people with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s will wander from home at some point. Locating them quickly is key to a safe return, and GPS tracking devices are one way to do that. A variety of products have GPS built in. You can choose a watch or pendant, or even an innersole that fits in a shoe. Many GPS devices use wireless technology, making it possible to track a senior’s location in real time or near real time.
  2. Conduct a kitchen safety audit: Kitchens present safety hazards at every age, but especially for those with memory impairment. Judgement is often impacted by Alzheimer’s, so it’s important to eliminate as many risks as possible. One issue to address is keeping towels, aprons, curtains, and other flammables away from the stovetop. If they are too close, they can brush against a burner and ignite. Also make sure sharp knives, chemicals, and other potentially hazardous items are stored safely out of the senior’s reach.

Encouraging a senior’s independence is linked to slower disease progression but preparing meals can be a challenge. A senior may leave the kitchen and forget about a pan cooking on the stove. A device called Cook Stop might help. This electronic unit senses when a pan has been unattended too long and turns the stove off.

  1. Establish medication management: Seniors with early Alzheimer’s, especially those living alone, may get medications mixed up or forget to take them altogether. Your family might find electronic pill dispensers Some even sound an alert and open the designated compartment on the dispenser at the appropriate time.
  2. Monitor finances: Poor judgment combined with forgetfulness can make it difficult for an adult with dementia to keep their financial affairs in order. Common behaviors include paying some bills twice while neglecting others. Scams and identity theft are other concerns.

Depending on the stage of the disease, a family member may need to monitor a loved one’s accounts online or completely manage all banking and financial matters. You can also set up credit card alerts to receive a text when the card is used remotely or spending limits are exceeded.

  1. Assess for fall risks: Alzheimer’s disease can cause changes in gait and vision that put a senior at increased risk for falls. By assessing their home for potential problems, you can minimize their fall risk. Stair treads, clutter, poor lighting, and throw rugs are hazards to look for. These fall prevention tips from the National Council on Aging will help you identify areas of concern.

Dementia Care Options to Consider

Despite your best efforts, there might come a time when caring for a loved one with dementia at home is no longer safe. Heritage has 8 dementia care communities throughout Michigan. We encourage you to call today to learn more about the benefits of specialized dementia care.

Does Exercise Help with Dementia Prevention?

Does Exercise Help with Dementia Prevention?

If a senior you love has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a similar type of dementia, you may worry about your risk for developing the condition. Unfortunately, the cause of Alzheimer’s continues to elude researchers, as do potential genetic links. But there are steps experts believe you can take to reduce your risk for the disease. One is regular exercise.

Physical Fitness and Brain Health

Research surrounding the connection between brain health and physical activity has increased in recent years. Studies continue to explore the idea that engaging in fitness activities seems to protect cognitive function longer. A study from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (UW SMPH), for example, suggests that lifestyle can impact your risk for Alzheimer’s.

Another study examined the amount of exercise it takes to make a difference. Older adults who participated in this study engaged in what is considered modest exercise, walking at a moderate pace on a treadmill for 30 minutes five times a week. A moderate pace is considered to be a speed that raises the heart rate while still allowing the participant to carry on a conversation.

So, what types of exercise should older adults discuss with their primary care physician? We have some ideas you might find useful.

Senior-Friendly Forms of Fitness

Some types of exercise are kinder on older joints than others. A few senior-friendly exercises to try are Tai Chi, chair yoga, swimming, walking, cycling, and Pilates. These are all good for managing pain associated with osteoarthritis, too.

Another idea is to explore the SilverSneakers program. If your health insurance plan is a participating organization, you might be entitled to a complimentary membership. Their classes take place at fitness centers across the country every day.

If you’d like a more directed fitness program but don’t want to join a gym, a few options include:

  • Growing Stronger: This illustrated guide was developed by Tufts University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s designed to make it easier for seniors to get started with an exercise program and stay motivated. You can download it at no cost.
  • Go4Life: The National Institute on Aging is home to a variety of fitness resources through a program called Go4Life. Here you’ll find everything from tools for tracking your fitness activities to finding the right workout clothes.

The bottom line is following your doctor’s advice and getting more exercise may do more than give you a healthier heart. It might just help to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease.

Wellness Activities at Heritage Senior Communities

At Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan and Indiana, residents have a variety of fitness activities to participate in every day. Popular ones include morning exercise with friends, Wii bowling, walking clubs, and chair yoga. Contact us at your convenience to learn how our communities make fitness fun!