Dementia and nutrition
Caring for those with dementia presents an extensive range of challenges. Among them is the need to ensure the person living with dementia maintains healthy eating habits and good nutrition. Here, we take a look at the role good nutrition plays, and identify some simple solutions for overcoming the dietary challenges faced by those with dementia.
What are the problems faced?
When tackling nutrition in those living with dementia, some of the most obvious issues are the most serious. Primarily, it’s not uncommon that many will struggle to maintain a healthy weight, with individuals experiencing significant weight loss as dementia progresses. Others, meanwhile, may gain excess weight due to poor dietary choices, leading to additional health risks and making life more uncomfortable.
Anybody with regular contact with someone living with dementia will not be surprised that such weight fluctuations are common. This comes as a result of a diminished ability to cook and prepare food, as well as a tendency to opt for convenience and snacks – notably those high in fat and sugar – as a way to quell hunger. In addition, when mobility is impacted, the ability to burn off excess calories is reduced, leading to weight gain.
As well as issues pertaining to weight loss/gain, a diet consisting of low nutritional value can impact health, mood, and energy levels. Similarly, any diet needs to contain enough of the right liquids (such as water and limited sugar) to avoid further complications caused by dehydration.
Communication and simplified understanding are both crucial when it comes to dementia. It’s never known when a patient may lose the ability to effectively make their needs known, so being prepared with solutions at the earliest possible stage is key. Suitable food and drink should be clearly visible and easy to access, with healthy options – such as fruit and vegetables – readily available.
Understanding the individual needs and preferences of the person with dementia are important too, with the need for a structured routine that provides comfort and reassurance. This may mean preparing meals for the same time every day, as well as cooking foods that are familiar and old favourites. For some, taste buds may change due to the condition, and appetite can vary. As such, on-going communication with carers and family continues to be vital.
Time should be set aside to monitor if there are any changes to weight, with small amendments to diet required should there begin to be fluctuations in either direction. It always pays to ensure that the person living with dementia is well nourished at all times, so err on the side of caution when it comes to portion size. And, if there continues to be a problem with weight, you can liaise with a GP in order to arrange a consultation with a dietician.
We at Avante Care & Support can help provide further advice and support on caring for people with dementia, with our high-quality care helping support both the individual and their loved ones when required. Whether it’s at one of our care homes or providing homecare support, we approach each case on an individual basis to ensure the very best attention and care is provided.