What are the main issues surrounding nutrition and hydration in people with dementia?

One of the many challenges people with dementia face is issues with eating and drinking. Though maintaining healthy levels of nutrition and hydration is absolutely vital for people with dementia, it’s often a struggle to ensure they eat and drink enough.

Not eating and drinking enough can lead to weight loss and dehydration. One of the main causes for this is when they are unable to communicate that they are hungry or thirsty. Often they’ll fail to recognize that they are hungry and will forget to eat.

Insufficient nutrition and hydration levels can lead to many other problems including exhaustion, loss of muscle strength and greater risk for infection and illness. Additionally, the symptoms of dementia can significantly worsen as lack of nutrients causes increased confusion and difficulties with memory.

Ensuring a healthy and typically high-calorie diet will improve the quality of life and help retain physical and mental abilities for longer.

What can be done to encourage a person with dementia to eat and drink more?

There are lots of ways to increase a person’s appetite and interest in food and drink for example:

  • The aroma of food (e.g. baked bread) can help to stimulate a person’s appetite.
  • Encourage a person to get involved in mealtimes. They could help prepare the food or lay the table.
  • Don’t overload the plate with food. Too much food can look daunting, plus if the food goes cold it can lose its appeal.
  • Make sure the food is easy to see. This can encourage the person to eat and drink more. Using coloured crockery like the Find Dining range can help food stand out and encourage the person to eat more.
  • Restore dignity – If the person has difficulty drinking, using cups and glasses that reduce spillage and breakage but still resembles “the real thing” allows the users to enjoy a drink without worry.
  • Use eating and drinking as an opportunity for activity and social stimulation. Creating an environment where someone can go to have a cup of coffee and some cake, an area where the person can talk about food from their childhood, can help encourage appetite. Find out more about creating a dementia-friendly environment by speaking to a member of our team.
  • Keep noise and distraction to a minimum. Noise creates a great deal of stress as the way the brain processes sound becomes less “selective” and all sounds are processed at the same level. Using crockery that reduces the tone and level of noise created while people are eating can make dining rooms more peaceful and less challenging.
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For more information regarding nutrition take a look at this article from the social care institute