A common nutritional problem that can affect someone in poor health is cachexia-anorexia and it especially involves those in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and cancer. Cachexia-anorexia is a syndrome in which progressive and involuntary weight loss occurs. The people with this disorder are “wasting-away” from the lack of vitamins and nutrients and as a caregiver; this can be a difficult and frustrating event to witness.
The syndrome can be attributed to cancer treatments, medications, physiological problems like an obstructing tumor in the gastrointestinal track or psychological problems like depression. It is also possible the person you are caring for has a loss of appetite simply from not feeling well. Remember to consult your physician about the specific dietary needs of your loved one.
- Water, Water, Water. Make sure the person you are caring for has plenty of water to avoid dehydration, which can lead to appetite suppression.
- Keep it small.Instead of three large meals a day, which can look overwhelming to someone in poor health, serve six small meals a day.
- Bulk upon the amount of calories per meal. For instance, you can add protein powder mix to shakes or drinks to increase calories.
- Soft is better.Serve soft foods such as pudding, ice cream or fruit smoothies because they can be tasty and easy to digest.
- Make it tasty. Don’t serve bland or sour tasting foods.
- Put the power in their hands. When possible, give the person you are caring for the decision-making power to decide what they would like to eat; it helps them to feel in control.
- Make it pretty.Present appetizing looking meals by accenting the plate with a garnish (i.e. strawberry or melon). Also, make the dining experience pleasant for the person you are caring for by playing soft music or talking to them about the day’s events while they are eating to take their minds off not feeling well.
- Write it down. Keep a food diary about the person you are caring for and include: what food they have problems or complications digesting and their daily food menus, and review it with their doctor or dietician for feedback. They may be experiencing digestive problems or irritable bowl syndrome due to their menu.
- Work it out.Try and get them moving to work up an appetite. If overall exercise such as walking isn’t possible, have them fold the laundry or peel vegetables.
By: Jennifer Buckley