Nutrition Concerns for Individuals with Dementia

Nutrition & fitness / Sanitas Medical Center

Date: June 28, 2021
Nutrition Concerns for Individuals with Dementia

Eating Challenges with Dementia

  • Weight loss is common and tends to become more severe as dementia gets worse.
  • Food may taste bland due to changes in sense of smell and taste.
  • Coordination skills might decline, making use of eating utensils or feeding oneself difficult.
  • Chewing and swallowing problems can make it difficult to eat. Some prescribed diets include softer foods to help encourage intake or thickened liquids for easier swallowing.
  • With severe dementia, individuals may also lose the ability to distinguish food from non-food objects.

Healthy Eating for Individuals with Dementia

  • Goal: eat a variety of foods for good nutrition status and encourage fluid intake. For those on a special diet for other conditions eg; diabetes or high cholesterol, health care providers may lift these restrictions to promote better overall intake.
  • Individuals with dementia can become easily distracted, so avoid patterned plates, having too many items on the table and turn off the TV during meals.
  • As the memory loss worsens, caregivers may need to provide verbal prompts to encourage eating. Bite-sized finger foods may encourage eating because they do not require utensils.
  • With appetite changes and weight loss, nutritional supplements can help add calories.
  • Eat together - the social aspect can encourage the person to eat.
  • Allow plenty of time to eat. Be flexible with food preferences, as their likes and dislikes may change.

Conclusion

Eating issues and dementia often go together. When offering nutritional assistance, keep in mind not just the person’s health, but their independence, and more importantly, their quality of life.