Dementia Patients and Nutrition Intake Challenges

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

Dementia brings a lot of challenges with itself and nutrition imbalance is one of them. If your loved ones are diagnosed with dementia, then one of the many things you as a caregiver have to look after is their nutrition intake. Some of the eating challenges that a dementia patient goes through are difficulty in chewing, swallowing, fatigue, loss of appetite, failing to understand that they are hungry, poor coordination, etc. They also suffer from dehydration. Nutrition deficiencies significantly impact their well-being. Thus, the caregiver has a more significant role to play by ensuring that their loved ones are getting the right set of nutrition and are adequately hydrated.

Challenges Associated with Nutrition Intake

Here are a few problems that dementia patients face and how caregivers can improvise by making conscious efforts:

➢ Weight loss Most dementia patients gradually lose the ability to use cutlery. Hence, this inability makes their meal consumption a cumbersome process. Also, they find it challenging to recognize food or taste change. Here the poorer nutritional intake along with lack of fluid can lead to Delirium, which is an acute confused state. Patients who have dementia needs to be given simple food portions which are easier to manage & rich in nutritional values.

➢ Preferences Asking dementia seniors about the food they like to eat is essential. The caregiver should provide options at mealtimes that they enjoy and are familiar with. It is significant to evaluate preferences for food regularly and record changes.

➢ Finding Food & Drinks Dementia seniors lose their ability to remember. Under this situation, even if they are in their own familiar set up, it is difficult for them to memorize the exact place where they can find food & drinks. Thus, constant assistance is necessary to make these life essentials accessible to them.

➢ Little Appetite Dementia seniors may start to experience losing their sense of smell, which can also be impacted by aging. Decreased ability to smell will have a direct consequence on the taste of food and can impact on a person’s appetite as well. The caregivers must ensure that the food is flavorsome and tasty; some food may require extra seasoning or stronger flavors which may tempt the person. The smell of food or baking may also help in increasing their appetite.

➢ Excessive Weight Gain Just like a decrease in weight, gaining excessive weight may also happen to a dementia patient. The individual may develop a preference for sweet flavors or savory snack food. These food options can be high in calories and they might consume in addition to or instead of normal meals. Such supplementary intake leads to higher calorie intake & weight gain. Also, sometimes unavailability of tasty yet healthy food options in their vicinity compels them to have such unhealthy food.

Caregiver’s efforts for meeting the nutrition-related challenges

Along with love, support & empathetic approach, the caregivers also need to take care of the dietary requirements of the patient. Healthier meals might help, for example, a varied platter of chopped ripe fruit can be alluring, delicious and easy to eat. Dried fruits like apricots, apple rings or large raisins are sweet-tasting options. A consistent effort of a caregiver can surely keep the health of dementia senior in check.

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