04Feb

Some advice for people with Dementia: Eating and Drinking

Some advice for people with Dementia: Eating and Drinking. As we get older, there are changes that affect eating. Older adults have less ability to taste and smell. Some people have trouble chewing and swallowing. Having a dry mouth is common. Some have trouble with their bowels or stomach. There are yet other problems when people have dementia. For example, they may not recognize food. They often don’t want to eat at mealtimes or may forget to eat.

Some ways to help people with dementia eat better

Some ways to help people with dementia eat better
Some ways to help people with dementia eat better
Tips to Help People with Dementia with Eating

  • Serve food in a quiet place. Turn off the TV and radio. Avoid interruptions.
  • Cut food into bite-sized pieces.
  • Make sure dentures, glasses, and hearing aids are in place.
  • Serve one food at a time.
  • Remove utensils that are not needed. For example, remove forks if eating soup.
  • Encourage self-feeding. Say things like “pick up your spoon.”

Colorful foods, like fruits and vegetables, have more vitamins than “junk food.” Vitamins from food are better than vitamin pills. Here are some examples of good foods a person should eat.

Good Foods to Eat
Food
Examples
Daily Amount
Fruits
apples, bananas, berries, 100% fruit juices
2 – 2-½ cups
Vegetables
broccoli, carrots, spinach, squash
2 – 2-½ cups
Grains
bread, cereal, oatmeal, pasta, rice
1 cup
Dairy
cheese, milk, yogurt
⅓ cup cheese or yogurt, 2 cups milk
Protein
beans, eggs, fish, meats, nuts, poultry
⅔ cup

Problems with drinking water for people with dementia. People with dementia may not drink enough because they don’t feel thirsty. They may even forget to drink. If they don’t drink, they may have problems going to the bathroom. They may also get dizzy and fall. How much should they drink? If the urine is dark yellow, they are not drinking enough. If urine is clear, they are getting enough.

Tips to Help People with Dementia with Drinking
  • Offer drinks all day long.
  • Always have a drink nearby, where the person can see it during meals.
  • Use a clear, brightly colored glass or cup so they can see it.
  • Make sure the glass or cup is not too big or heavy. It should be easy to lift and hold.
  • Just because a glass is empty, it does not mean the person drank it. Check for spills.
  • Water is the best drink, but it’s OK to offer other drinks too.
  • Sometimes, adding flavoring to the water helps a person want to drink more.

People with dementia can choke while eating or drinking. You can help avoid choking by cutting food into small pieces. Make sure they chew food well and eat and drink slowly. Call 911 if you see signs of choking. You can perform the Heimlich maneuver if you know how, but you should still seek medical care after choking stops, just to be sure things are OK.

Signs of Choking
  • Coughing while eating or drinking
  • Unable to talk while eating
  • Clutching the throat
  • Wheezing
  • Turning blue
  • Passing out

Possible causes of a lack of appetite

Possible causes of a lack of appetite
Possible causes of a lack of appetite

People with dementia may not want to eat for a number of different reasons:

  • Not knowing what food is. The person might not know what you put on his or her plate anymore.
  • Dentures that don’t fit well. Even if it hurts to eat, the person might not be able to tell you.
  • Changes in dosage or new medicines can make it hard to eat. Call the doctor if you notice a change.
  • Lack of physical activity will decrease appetite. Encourage simple ways to move, like taking a walk, gardening, or washing dishes.
  • Taste and smell become less strong. The person with dementia may not eat because food may not smell or taste as good as it used to.

Some advice for people with Dementia: Eating and Drinking

The simple nutrition tips below can help improve the health of someone with dementia.

  1. Give them a balanced diet with a lot of different foods. Give them fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein.
  2. Cut back on foods that have a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol. Some fat is good for you, but not all fats are the same. Butter, solid shortening, lard, and fatty cuts of meat are all high in fats that are bad for the heart.
  3. Don’t eat as much refined sugar. You can replace high-sugar foods with healthier options like fruit or juice pies. But keep in mind that adding sugar to food can help people with late-stage dementia eat more.

    Some advice for people with Dementia: Eating and Drinking
    Some advice for people with Dementia: Eating and Drinking
  4. Use spices or herbs instead of salt to season food. Don’t eat too many high-sodium foods and use less salt. Eat too much sodium which can raise their blood pressure.
  5. Give them a chance to recognize it by letting them smell or touch it. It may also help to serve food on dishes that are a different color than the food. This makes it easier for them to see and know what it is.
  6. Make sure your dentures fit well and go to the dentist often. Take them to the dentist if you think there’s a problem. Help them keep their mouths healthy. Two times a day, they should brush their teeth. If you can, use floss or an interdental brush to clean between your teeth. Most cavities and mouth infections start between the teeth, so this is very important. They may also have trouble getting their muscles to move so they can open their mouths. If this is the case, you can talk to a doctor or an occupational therapist about ways to help them eat.

Eating and Drinking at the End of Life

In the late stage of dementia, people often do not eat or drink. This is normal in the late stages of dementia near the end of life. Not eating or drinking does not make the person feel sick. You do not have to push or force the person to eat and drink. Not eating or drinking is just the natural part of the end of life with dementia.

See more: Diarrhea and Fecal Incontinence in older people

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