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Feeding a Patient with Dementia

Feeding a Patient with Dementia

Eating is essential to life and one of the most important daily activities to maintain. Regular meals and nutrition may become a challenge for people with dementia. This may include swallowing difficulties, change of appetite, change of eating habits and consumption of inedible objects. Whilst caring for loved ones with dementia, eating takes up as much time as help with bathing and toilet support.

The possible reasons for poor appetite in people with dementia can be-

  • Medications
  • Not recognizing food
  • Decreased sense of smell and taste
  • Reduced physical movements

A bad diet can worsen symptoms of dementia. Be sure your loved one eats vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and protein. Foods that are greasy, or have a lot of sugar, can negatively affect mood and health.

For someone with dementia, mealtime can be complicated and frustrating, especially as memory and coordination deteriorates. Our focus should be on making mealtimes easier which can be done by following simple steps-

  • Eating together
  • Limit distractions
  • Keep table setting simple
  • Check temperature of food
  • Provide enough time to eat

Another major aspect to remember is to encourage independence i.e. you have to make most out of person’s abilities which can be done by using simple utensils such as spoons with big handles than using a fork. Provide already mixed food which can be easier to eat. We can also use ‘watch-me technique’ for example show a person how to hold the spoon and eat. These simple steps can motivate person with dementia to eat independently.

Some other points to keep in mind while feeding a person with dementia are –

  • Prepare foods which are not hard to chew or swallow.
  • Address decreased appetite by making favorite food, or encouraging more physical activities and multiple small meals can be given rather than large 2-3 meals in a day.
  • Be alert on signs of choking.

Meal times provide social interaction and should be a source of enjoyment but eating habits may change with advancing disease. Upholding good nutrition in dementia involves skill, effort, flexibility and time, and has to be seen within the context of wider efforts to provide person-centred care.

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