Dementia and Eating: Mealtime Success
People with dementia can develop problems with eating. As with many of the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, it is up to the in-home caregiver to determine the root cause of the problem to find the best solution.
The person with dementia may lose the ability to tell when they are hungry or full, complicating mealtime and adding stress when the caregiver is hungry and needs to eat.
Smells and tastes may be different to someone with dementia, so they might refuse favorite foods or drinks.
Someone with dementia may forget to eat or forget how to use their utensils and make bite-size portions for themselves. Even dentures that do not fit properly can be a cause of dietary changes or loss of appetite.
These potential problems can make people with dementia susceptible to dehydration and malnutrition. Certain medications may also alter their appetite. Poor nutrition can even exacerbate dementia symptoms. Always contact a physician if there are changes in weight and diet and look for any weight loss and skipped meals.
Tips for maintaining a healthy diet and a pleasant dining experience include:
Offer several small meals throughout the day, rather than three large meals.
Supplement meals with high-protein/high-calorie drinks. For example, make milkshakes with ice cream, fresh fruit and protein powder to add calories. Add butter to vegetables, potatoes and bread. Use heavy cream in place of milk in coffee, tea, cereal, or scrambled eggs.
Offer finger foods that don’t require utensils such as sandwiches, tater tots or fries, chicken drumsticks, shelled nuts, whole fruit, sliced vegetables on a plate and so on.
Instead or arguing or trying to reason with someone with dementia about eating, make them a helper. Ask them to try a new recipe or taste something to make sure it’s seasoned properly.
Offer clear fluids throughout the day, and drinks with no caffeine.
Eliminate distractions such as the TV or radio, and keep the table setting simple. Only offer a couple of foods at a time.