Elderly

Nutrition and Dementia

The type of food we eat affects our health and our quality of life. Poorly nourished people get sick more often and recover from injury and illness more slowly. Poor nutrition is a major health problem for many older people.

For people with dementia, maintaining good nutrition presents extra challenges. A person with dementia may:

  • Experience a loss of appetite
  • Develop an insatiable appetite or a craving for sweets
  • Forget to eat and drink
  • Forget how to chew or swallow
  • Experience a dry mouth, or mouth discomfort
  • Be unable to recognise the food and drink they are given

Daily nutritional balance

The nutritional requirements of someone with dementia will be similar to other people of their age. However some people with dementia experience increased physical activity such as pacing, which means they will need larger amounts of food to prevent them from losing weight.

Common nutritional problems

Forgetting to eat

What to try

  • An alarm clock, or a phone call, may be a useful reminder at mealtimes
  • Snacks that are easy to eat and don’t need to be refrigerated can be left out where they can be easily seen

Can’t or won’t prepare meals for themselves

It can be particularly difficult for people with dementia who are living alone when they  can’t or won’t prepare meals for themselves.

What to try

  • Meals should be shared social occasions whenever possible
  • Delivered meals such as meals-on-wheels. However these may not provide all of a person’s daily nutritional needs or may not be what the person is used to eating
  • Home support to assist with meal preparation, serving and to discretely prompt with eating
  • Pre-prepared meals from the supermarket
  • Family and friends helping to prepare meals and or eating together
  • Preparing large quantities of food, then freezing into meal size amounts
  • Home delivered ready-to-eat food from restaurants or fast food outlets
  • Eating out. However check first that the person with dementia will be comfortable with the venue and food
  • Stocking up on healthy snacks such as yoghurt, cheese or dried fruit that do not need preparation or cooking

 

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