What to Do When a Senior with Alzheimer’s Won’t Eat

What to Do When a Senior with Alzheimer’s Won’t Eat

Caregiving for a senior who has Alzheimer’s often involves overcoming a variety of unique challenges. One is making mealtimes go smoothly. Alzheimer’s disease can complicate some everyday activities, such as manipulating silverware or concentrating on the tasks associated with eating.

For some people with Alzheimer’s or a similar form of dementia, it results in poor nutrition and an unhealthy amount of weight loss. If you are struggling to get a family member with Alzheimer’s to eat healthy, it is essential to first identify your loved one’s difficulties and then develop strategies to accommodate them.


4 Reasons People with Alzheimer’s Won’t Eat


If you find yourself worried or frustrated about why your senior loved one won’t eat, know it is a familiar struggle for dementia caregivers. Because a loss of verbal skills makes communication challenging, the senior may not be able to express what the problem is. Some common problems to explore include:

  1. Loss of appetite: An adult with dementia might not recognize the body’s hunger signals. They aren’t interested in eating because they don’t feel hungry. Perhaps one of their medications diminishes their appetite. A loss of smell or taste can further exacerbate the problem.
  2. Problems with teeth or dentures: If the senior hasn’t been to the dentist in a while, there might be an undiagnosed oral health issue. A sore tooth or poorly fitting dentures might make chewing painful. Pay attention to their face when they eat. Do they grimace in pain? It may be something to discuss with a dentist.
  3. Decreased dexterity: Hand-eye coordination eventually becomes a challenge for adults with dementia. It can make mealtime physically and emotionally difficult. The frustration of being unable to use silverware can lead to lower self-esteem and loss of dignity. The senior may give up trying and not eat.
  4. Challenging environment: Difficulty concentrating is a common issue for seniors with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Distractions caused by a hectic or noisy environment can make sitting still long enough to eat impossible.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to overcome each of these common problems.


Promoting Positive Mealtime Experiences for an Adult with Alzheimer’s


  1. Eliminate distractions: At mealtime, turn off the television and silence your cell phone. Try to eliminate as much background noise and distractions as possible. If your family member responds well to soft music, keep a few peaceful songs loaded and ready to play. It might also help to quietly sit with your family member while they eat. Providing a calm, distraction-free environment may improve their concentration and increase the amount of food they eat.
  2. Use helpful visuals: Sometimes vision issues make mealtime more difficult. You can make it easier for your family member to identify food on their plate by using a brightly colored placemat with a contrasting color of plate. That helps them distinguish the plate from the table and identify the food on the plate. Researchers also suggest using plain tableware and avoiding busy patterns. The Red Plate Study at Boston University found when people with Alzheimer’s are served meals on red plates, they eat 25% more than those who eat from white plates.
  3. Serve one food at a time: When a plate is full of several different food groups, the senior might find it distracting. Instead, serve one food group at a time. It might make it easier for them to focus and eat more. Serve the healthiest, nutrient-rich foods first, just in case you aren’t able to keep them at the table as long as you would like.
  4. Adapt tableware: Adaptive utensils with chunky handles and foods served in bowls might also make mealtime less of a struggle for someone with Alzheimer’s. Spoons require less coordination than forks. If that doesn’t help, finger foods are another option. Avoid foods that may be a choking hazard, such as hot dogs, celery, grapes, raw carrots, nuts, and popcorn.
  5. Model behavior: If possible, eat meals with your senior loved one. This allows you to model behavior for the senior to follow, such as eating their vegetables or drinking a glass of water. It will also allow you to discreetly help them eat, if needed.

Finally, as you are planning menus, include foods the senior likes and that look and smell inviting. That might encourage them to eat.


Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities


Dementia care programs are designed to support the unique needs of adults with memory impairment. At Heritage, we call ours The Terrace. We provide three nutritious homemade meals every day. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!

Independence Day Safety for Adults with Alzheimer’s

Independence Day Safety for Adults with Alzheimer’s

Independence Day celebrates the birth of our nation. It’s typically filled with parades, picnics, and barbeques. For many, attending a community fireworks event or launching a few small firecrackers in the yard are a favorite part of their annual July 4th tradition.

While most people greatly enjoy these loud and lively festivities, they can cause fear and agitation for others. This is especially true for seniors who have Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia.

If you are planning an Independence Day celebration that includes an older adult with dementia, we have a few tips to help the day go more smoothly.


Dementia and Independence Day: 5 Tips for a Safe Celebration


  1. Let the senior help with preparations.

In the days before your party, find tasks your family member can do. It will make them feel like they are part of the celebration. Depending upon the stage of their Alzheimer’s, they might be able to help plant and water flowers in the yard, cover and set tables, or prepare food. Find safe ways to include the older adult.

  1. Consider the party time carefully.

Think about the times of day when your senior loved one is at their best. Is it possible to plan your July 4th festivities around tough hours of the day and night? For example, if your family member has Sundowner’s Syndrome, can you host your party earlier or later in the day?

  1. Create a peaceful place.

Make sure to have a safe place for your family member to rest if the celebration gets too loud or chaotic. If they don’t live with you, set up a space for them in a bedroom or den furthest from the party. Have soft music ready to play or noise-cancelling headphones they can wear.

  1. Plan alternative activities for the senior.

It might also be a good idea to have alternate activities for them to do if the party gets to be too much. A craft project, a basket of laundry to fold, or a family photo album can be good. You may want to ask people familiar to the senior to spend one-on-one time with them during this respite. It can be a positive experience for both.

  1. Alert guests ahead of time.

If some of your guests aren’t familiar with your senior loved one’s illness, send a quick text or email to explain the situation. While many adults have a vague understanding of Alzheimer’s and dementia, they might not be familiar with the challenges it creates.

We hope the tips above help your family enjoy a happy, healthy July 4th celebration!


Specialized Dementia Care in Michigan and Indiana


Adults with memory impairment benefit from specialized dementia care. At Heritage, we call it The Terrace. Using a person-centered approach, each resident gets the individual support needed to live their best quality of life. We invite you to call the community nearest you to learn more today!

How to Evaluate the Quality of a Memory Care Program

How to Evaluate the Quality of a Memory Care Program

Dear Donna:
My husband is the guardian for his great-uncle who has Alzheimer’s disease. Since his diagnosis a year ago, we’ve found ways to keep him safe in his own home. The time has come, however, to begin searching for an Alzheimer’s care community.

We aren’t sure what to look for or ask as we begin making appointments. Can you give us a few pointers? We are feeling a little overwhelmed.


Tina in Byron Center, MI


Tips for Evaluating a Memory Care Community


Dear Tina:

If you aren’t familiar with memory care, a term often used to describe Alzheimer’s care programs, the search can be intimidating. The sheer variety of options helps ensure an older adult gets the right type of care, but also makes the search confusing for families.

Here are a few questions to ask and factors to keep in mind as you and your husband begin contacting and visiting local memory care communities:

  • What is the community’s philosophy of care?

Each memory care community has a unique approach to care. Learning more about each community’s beliefs will help you decide which is a good fit for your uncle. Ask each community you are considering to describe their philosophy of care and what sets them apart from other local providers.

  • Will the team work hard to encourage his independence?

Research indicates doing too much for someone with Alzheimer’s can undermine their independence. It can also cause their disease to progress more quickly. By contrast, having systems in place to encourage residents to do as much as is safely possible might help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Finding a memory care community that knows how to successfully balance safety with independence is important. Be sure to ask how the team does this.

  • How does the community get to know new residents?

Because Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia often impact verbal skills and memory, a senior who moves to a memory care community may struggle answering questions or telling caregivers and staff their unique life story.

Loved ones often cite feeling frustrated that their loved one is treated as a diagnosis, not an individual. This leads to a loss of dignity and self-worth that families find devastating.

Another question to ask when you call or visit memory care is how they will get to know your uncle and learn about his life and personal preferences.

  • Are life enrichment activities offered for memory care residents?

Activities and events can enhance quality of life for people with dementia if they work with the senior’s remaining abilities. Take time to ask about daily activities for residents in memory care as you are assessing potential communities. What types of programs are offered and how often? Who coordinates activities and what is their background? Getting answers to these questions will give you a good idea of how your uncle will spend his days.

  • How does the community help make this a smooth transition?

Because a change in environment can be stressful for an adult with dementia, you’ll benefit from a community with experienced team members. The staff can work with you on a plan for the days leading up to and after your uncle’s move. Before you make a final decision, ask each community how they help new residents make the smoothest transition possible.

I hope this information is helpful to you, Tina! I wish you and your husband the best of luck in your search for memory care for your uncle.

Kind regards,



Memory Care at Heritage Senior Communities


At Heritage Senior Communities, we call our memory care program The Terrace. From specialized activities to dedicated dining, it’s designed to help adults with dementia enjoy their best quality of life. Call the community nearest you to learn more today!

5 Purposeful Activities for Seniors with Dementia

5 Purposeful Activities for Seniors with Dementia

It’s not uncommon for seniors to lose their sense of purpose after they receive a dementia diagnosis. But feeling useful is essential to overall health and wellness. Research has linked living purposefully to a longer life span, better sleep quality, and improved brain health.

Many caregivers want to help their loved one stay engaged but are unsure where to start. They struggle to come up with meaningful activities that support independence.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Emotions

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia affect a person’s memory. As the disease progresses, a person may increasingly struggle to remember certain life events. While they may not be able to recall specific details of an event, they can still remember the associated emotions. Here are a few tips for caregivers who want to help their loved ones with dementia enjoy purposeful days.

Helping a Senior with Dementia Enjoy Purposeful Days

  1. Play music that triggers positive feelings.

Music is a wonderful way to uplift a person with dementia. Try playing music from their childhood or special times in their life. For example, play a song from their wedding. Your loved one might not remember where the song is from, but they will feel happy while they listen.

  1. Sort through old photographs.

Looking at photographs is another excellent activity for seniors with dementia. Take time to sit with your loved one and sort through old pictures. These can be images from their childhood or significant life events. A photograph can trigger the emotions they felt when the photo was taken, even if they don’t remember the circumstances.

  1. Explore local art classes.

Art is increasingly used to help seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown art can strengthen the brain, improve focus, and reduce stress. Check if your local community center offers any painting or drawing classes for seniors.

  1. Try gardening.

Many people like to garden, but it can be particularly enjoyable for those with dementia. Plants give them something to care for, which can help them feel needed.

  1. Let them help with chores.

Chores can help seniors with dementia feel like they are contributing. This can improve their self-esteem. Activities that involve repetition, like folding or sorting papers, can even be enjoyable.

Emotions Last after a Memory Is Lost

It’s helpful for caregivers to remember feelings linger even after a memory is lost. This includes emotions experienced after visiting with a loved one, exercising, or completing a task that makes them feel needed. Each interaction can positively impact the rest of their day.

Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan

Heritage Senior Communities provides specialized dementia care for adults with memory impairment. Our thoughtfully designed communities feature plenty of activities to enhance our residents’ self-esteem and provide purposeful days. We invite you to schedule a private tour today.

The Dangers of Denying a Relative Has Memory Problems

The Dangers of Denying a Relative Has Memory Problems

It’s not uncommon for family members to miss the signs of a senior loved one’s memory problems. They often assume their increased forgetfulness and trouble recalling new information is a normal part of aging. While minor cognitive challenges are usually nothing to worry about, significant changes might be cause for concern. Ignoring a loved one’s memory loss can lead to more significant problems down the road and affect their safety. Here are a few signs that your loved one’s memory loss may be more than age-related decline and the costs of denying their symptoms.


Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

  • Regularly forgetting recently learned information
  • Increased difficulty planning or solving problems
  • Trouble completing familiar tasks like driving or organizing a grocery list
  • Losing track of time or forgetting where they are and how they got there

If you suspect a loved one has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, take them to a specialist as soon as possible.


The Dangers of Denying a Loved One’s Memory Loss

There are risks to putting off having a senior loved one evaluated for Alzheimer’s disease including:

  1. It’s difficult to avoid safety risks

Many safety risks come with Alzheimer’s. Wandering, for example, is a common behavior among those with dementia. Studies have shown the longer a person with memory loss is gone, the higher their risk of injury. Without a diagnosis, it might take longer for you to notice they are missing. Denying a loved one’s memory loss can also increase their risk of:

  • Home fires
  • Crime
  • Driving accidents

Accepting your relative’s memory loss can help you take steps to keep your loved one safe.

  1. They won’t benefit from early intervention

Ignoring a loved one’s symptoms means they won’t be able to get the help they need. Medications can alleviate some symptoms of Alzheimer’s and improve the affected person’s quality of life. Specific treatment plans can delay the disease’s progression and allow people to maintain their independence longer.

  1. You avoid making assumptions

It’s important to remember not to assume a loved one has dementia. There can be another underlying cause, such as medication interactions or infection. Dehydration can also affect brain function. Regardless of the reason for their memory challenges, identifying the underlying cause will help keep your loved one safe and allow them to prepare for the future.


Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease

If you think your loved one might have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, schedule an appointment with a neurologist or gerontologist to get a proper diagnosis. Help prepare your loved one to answer questions about their memory. They’ll probably be asked how their memory has changed, when they first noticed these changes, and how often memory issues occur. They may also be asked if they have trouble remembering important dates or struggle to take medication.


Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities

Heritage Senior Communities offers Specialized Dementia Care for adults with memory impairment. Our staff takes a person-centered care approach, meaning care is tailored to each person’s needs. Our goal is to enhance our residents’ quality of life by enabling them to live as independently as possible. Contact us today to learn more about our Specialized Dementia Care Communities.

4 Common Triggers for Anger and Agitation in People with Alzheimer’s

4 Common Triggers for Anger and Agitation in People with Alzheimer’s

People with Alzheimer’s disease commonly experience anger and agitation. It can be challenging for caregivers to help their senior loved ones when they are experiencing these negative emotions. In most cases, there is a reason behind their feelings. By learning what causes a loved one to become upset, caregivers can take steps to put them at ease.

4 Common Triggers for Anger and Agitation

  1. Unmet needs

Many seniors with Alzheimer’s disease struggle to understand their needs. They may become frustrated when they can’t identify pain or another form of discomfort. As a result, their frustration may turn into anger. If your loved one becomes upset, do your best to figure out why. Here are a few things you can try:

  • Offer them a snack and a cup of water to see if they are hungry or thirsty.
  • Ask your loved one if they need to use the restroom.
  • See if they are touching an area of their body, which could indicate the area hurts.
  1. Environmental factors

Many environmental factors can cause a person with Alzheimer’s to become angry or agitated. One common trigger is overstimulation. Because people with dementia may have trouble processing information, situations that are crowded, loud, and busy can be overwhelming. Seniors with dementia might become upset because they are unable to cope. To keep your loved one at ease, try to keep their space quiet and organized.

  1. Tiredness

It’s not uncommon for seniors with Alzheimer’s to have trouble sleeping. Not only have studies suggested the disease reduces deep sleep, but it has also been shown to affect circadian rhythm. Common sleep-related disorders, like sleep apnea, can also negatively impact sleep quality. Regardless of the reason, lack of sleep can cause anyone to become irritable. Do your best to ensure your loved one maintains healthy sleeping habits. Best practices include establishing times to wake up and go to bed and a nighttime routine.

  1. Sundowning

Many caregivers notice their loved one’s symptoms worsen in the evening. This is a process referred to as sundowners syndrome, or sundowning. Many caregivers manage their loved one’s sundowning symptoms by helping maintain good sleep habits. In addition to staying on schedule and establishing a routine, take steps to wind down before bed. Listen to relaxing music or work on a quiet activity, like coloring.

Managing Anger and Agitation

Although it’s not always possible to eliminate anger and agitation, there are ways to ease these feelings. Understanding triggers can help caregivers know how to respond when their loved ones are upset. Doing so can have a huge impact on your caregiving relationship.

Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities

If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease and are struggling to manage their feelings of agitation and anger, you might want to consider memory care. Heritage Senior Communities provides specialized dementia care across Michigan. Our communities are designed to reduce many symptoms of Alzheimer’s, including agitation and anger. Contact us today to learn more.