With five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s Disease, it is easy to accept dementia as a natural part of aging. That is, unless its your loved one or your resident/patient struggling with Alzheimer’s. Then dementia can be a nightmare as the individual loses the ability to perform simple tasks of daily life. That includes eating.
Senior living and healthcare providers are acutely aware of dementia’s impact on residents as is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Failing appetites can lead to weight loss, delayed wound healing, infections, muscle weakness, and increased fall risk. These, of course, increase the demand for healthcare services. Thus, CMS is now linking reimbursement to quality of care and outcomes in dementia (memory care).
If you’re a long-term care or memory care provider, how are combatting this issue? Thrive Ice Cream found a helpful article published by Gordon Food Service on how best to improve outcomes and protect your financial bottom line. Here are the highlights:
1) Customize food preparation and presentation. Dementia often causes poor appetite, inability to recognize foods, overeating, and the loss of smell or taste. To overcome this:
- Know residents’ food preferences.
- Offer culturally familiar meal options.
- Provide choices and serve small, frequent meals.
- Use texture modification, such as pureeing food.
- Provide finger foods.
- Use fortified foods and nutritional supplements when indicated.
2) Optimize the dining environment. Simple changes can improve eating habits and quality of life.
- Remove clutter and use simple tables and chairs.
- Limit distractions like ambient noises and active music.
- Optimize lighting to ensure food can be identified.
- Create a calm space that allows dining with dignity and appropriate social interaction.
- Consider aroma therapy to stimulate appetite and soothe diners.
- Offer family-style meals and have caregivers eat with residents.
- Promote self-feeding and assist when necessary.
3) Cooperate transition of care, including diet/nutrition. This will help improve outcomes, reduce hospital admissions and maximize reimbursement.
- Coordinate between hospital and post-acute care communities upon admission and discharge.
- Caregivers should be educated on the critical importance of proper nutrition, and the strategies to encourage adequate intake for those with dementia.
- Discharge planning should include steps to ensure access to well-balanced meals.
- To help avoid hospital readmission, patients with dementia returning home should receive follow-up checks to ensure proper nutrition.
We appreciate thoughtful strategies like those offered by Gordon Food Service. We’d also like to add one of our own: add Thrive Ice Cream to your nutritional arsenal. Using Thrive’s complete nutrition as a dietary supplement or snack is proven to help at-risk seniors maintain and gain weight. And because Thrive Ice Cream is both familiar and delicious, it makes getting dementia sufferers to eat much easier. For more information or to order Thrive online, visit our website.