People with dementia often experience problems with eating and drinking. Not eating and drinking enough when you have dementia can lead to fatigue and higher risks of falls. Dehydration can make the symptoms of dementia worse, increasing confusion and the risk of infection and delirium.
Eating with dementia: Poor appetite, cognitive impairment and poor coordination can all cause the person with dementia to have problems eating. This could lead them to avoid mealtimes. If the person is struggling at mealtimes following some of the tips below may help.
- If the person struggles to use a knife and fork cut up the food into manageable amounts.
- Let the person eat where they feel most comfortable
- Use coloured plates to make food noticeable. The colours of the food, plate and table should contrast. Avoiding patterned plates is important
- Do not rush meal times, let them go at their own pace
- Check the person still likes the food. Tastes change and it may be that they no longer like the food they have always ate
- Switch off background noise to minimise distraction
Drinking with dementia: Encourage a person with dementia to drink more by:
- Offering the person a choice of drink both hot and cold
- Describing what the drink is and where it is
- Placing cold liquids in clear glasses in the line of sight so the person can see where it is
- Placing hot drinks in appropriate cups that are not too heavy and are easy to hold to avoid spillage
Remember, just placing a drink in front of a person with dementia doesn’t mean they will drink it.
Although eating and drinking difficulties are common in a person with dementia, each person is different and should be helped in a way suitable for them.