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Healthy diets and relationships can impact the affects of Alzheimer’s

Quality of Life Observer

- Seniors

- Feb 4 2014

The population of individuals affected by dementia stretches beyond 24 million worldwide – with 50-60% suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. As this number is expected to double over the next 20 years, researchers continue to look for ways to fight against the destructive disease. New studies show that diet, as well as the relationships patients have with their loved ones, play a prominent role in improving the well-being of Alzheimer’s patients and can perhaps even slow down the evolution of the illness

Fueled by these researches, the Spanish Foundation AFAL Futuro set nutrition as a core initiative in its new Alzheimer’s care and research center located in Paracuellos de Jarama, near Madrid, Spain. Slated to open in February 2014, Villafal will host up to 140 patients and boasts a permanent medical team as well as a committee of specialists, including a geriatrician, a psychiatrist, a neurologist and a researcher.


Putting food in focus

As part of its customized care program, Villafal will include the Sodexo CALMA diet. Grounded in the understanding that nutrition is a key element in the development and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, CALMA is based on a Mediterranean diet (high in fruits, vegetables and fish) of 2,000 calories per day, served over seven meals. 

Dieticians design resident meals on a case-by-case basis to accommodate dietary concerns and improve patients’ state of health. While health concerns are tantamount, Villafal director Jaime Conde points out that dietitians also consider the food preferences of residents as well.

“It is important that food remains a source of satisfaction for the patients,” says Conde.

Notably, the program also incorporates family members into the overall framework. “With an emphasis on preserving relationships, we invite families to actively participate in the conception of menus,” says Conde. “Reinforcing these relationships helps us to increase the quality of life of our patients.”


The importance of autonomy 

In addition to the focus on food intake, the center provides adapted flatware designed to be easier to handle and increase the patient's autonomy.

“The project was conceived to make every resident feel at home and allow them to live their lives as autonomously as possible,” points out Conde. “Eventually, this method also helps to preserve and improve the psychological balance of the patients.”


Information for the future

The Villafal center keeps family members and legal guardians informed of the evolving health of its residents following monthly and annual physical check-ups through its website as well as screens set up in the resident rooms. With this data, the CALMA program also intends to improve the health care framework while contributing to better understand the beneficial effects of diet on the evolution of the Alzheimer's disease.

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