How to meet the nutritional needs of those living with dementia

It is very common with dementia for the individual’s relationship with food and drink to change. As dementia symptoms progress, these difficulties meeting nutritional needs can worsen. It can lead to problems such as dehydration and significant weight loss.

What causes the changing approach to food and drink

Regularly, people living with dementia experience a change in their appetite. They may lose their zest for life and with it, their enthusiasm for food. Individuals may also have physical problems with swallowing and chewing. Individuals with dementia may also have significant coordination problems making it hard to use cutlery or drink confidently from a standard glass. These problems can be exacerbated by difficulties communicating with those caring for them.

If an individual is living alone, it isn’t uncommon for them to forget to eat or drink, or to experience difficulties with food preparation.

How to support good nutrition in those with dementia

There are a number of different things you can do to encourage someone suffering with dementia to eat and drink more healthily:

  • Flexibility: The opportunity to eat should be flexible, allowing individuals to eat more at the times that they are more naturally hungry.
  • Availability: Ensure that opportunities to eat are frequently available, specifically in the form of smaller snacks.
  • Size: Keep portion sizes small, ensuring that the individual doesn’t feel overwhelmed.
  • Familiarity: Offer familiar foods which you know the individual likes.
  • Variety: Also ensure you offer a range of food that looks appealing and allows for change in an individual’s palette.
  • Coordination: Make finger foods which are relatively soft, removing the need to grapple with cutlery e.g. chips, finger sandwiches, pieces of fruit, sausage rolls etc.
  • Calories: Offer calorie rich foods which are appealing such as fingers of fruit cake.
  • Sweetness: Adding some sweetness to traditionally savoury foods can help appeal to changing taste buds.
  • Tools: Specialist tumblers and cutlery can help individuals meet their nutritional requirements more independently.
  • Company: Sometimes the solution is as simple as ensuring the individual is surrounded by others who are eating well. It can help for carers to eat alongside the individual.
  • Involvement: We also sometimes find that getting the individual involved with preparing the food, or even growing it in our garden, is just enough to help them feel more motivated to eat.

If food isn’t enough

Unfortunately, particularly in later stages of dementia, it may be that an individual is unable to meet all of the nutritional needs through food and drink alone. In these situations, specialist dementia nursing care can help. At our dementia care homes in North Devon and Somerset, medical nutrition can be provided for our residents.

Whilst our care teams will go to great lengths to support your loved one’s nutritional needs, if this proves to be inadequate, they are also able to provide nutritional help. Medical care is arranged through our relationships with local GPs, ensuring that the individual has exactly what they need.

Dementia care at Eastleigh

Ensuring someone living with dementia eats and drinks well is just one part of our specialist dementia care. Learn more about Eastleigh dementia care in Devon and Somerset by calling 01769 573166.