Dementia and Food: How to Ensure Your Loved One is Eating

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Dementia can cause your loved one to stop eating for many reasons. Sometimes, they may refuse to eat as they think they already have done, or they don’t have an appetite. Dementia can also affect their ability to feel and recognize hunger. For those with dementia, eating is an important part of their care. Below we look at a few ways in which you can ensure your loved one with dementia is eating.

Leave Cues to Eat

If you are worried your loved one simply forgets to eat, leave cues around the home for them to eat their meals and to remind them of where the plates, cutlery, and food are. Visual cues for those with dementia can help remind them to eat and where to get items, which is another reason they may not eat. Often for those with dementia, eating little and often is easier to maintain than sitting for three large meals. Medications can cause a decrease in appetite, so bringing a big plate of food to the table may only cause distress. 

Be There for Meal Times

Being there for mealtimes will ensure your loved one is eating. Only bring them to the table to eat when the food is ready, as this will cause less confusion. Having no distractions at mealtimes (such as the TV blaring) will also help them to concentrate on the task at hand. If they need prompting, try putting the cutlery in their hands or giving them their first mouthful, as this may remind them of what they are doing. Eating with them will reduce the pressure they may be feeling, and watching you eat is another good reminder. Encourage and prompt them gently to swallow, take sips of their drink, and carry on eating. 

Helping with Physical Changes

Dementia can cause individuals to forget or struggle while using a knife and fork, as well as forgetting to swallow their food. Eating and drinking independently are important for those living with dementia, so offering food that is easy to eat can help with these physical changes. 

Cutting the food into manageable pieces can help them to eat independently, and only providing the cutlery that is needed for the meal will cause less confusion. If they are struggling with cutlery, turn your attention to finger foods such as cheese, fruits, and sandwiches. Dementia can also affect their eyesight, meaning different colored plates may help them to see their food.  

Consider Senior Living

If you are worried your loved one isn’t eating enough, assisted living is a great choice to ensure they don’t lose weight and become more prone to illness. It’s difficult to provide round-the-clock care to a loved one with dementia, but senior living can offer this and much more. The Bluffs at Greystone, part of the Phonix Senior Living community,  for example, provides individualized care plans, gourmet meals, and daily wellness checks.

Leaving visual cues and being there for mealtimes will ensure your loved one with dementia is eating. Make changes to allow them to remain independent as possible and be sure to prompt them when required. If you are struggling to care for your loved one with dementia, consider senior living. 

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