An individual with dementia may have problems with eating and drinking, and it could be difficult for the carer to encourage them to maintain a healthy diet. There are two main complications when it comes to eating and drinking for someone with dementia, “Number one, people lose weight with dementia. Number two, they don’t keep to the usual meal times” says Dr Warner. “It’s really important that someone with dementia isn’t kept to rigid breakfast, lunch and dinner. I think, having food that is really easy to digest and easy to eat is really important.”
He also mentions that “finger food can be helpful if a full meal is difficult'' as the person with dementia may not be able to use a knife and fork. They also tend to develop a change in appetite or taste, in fact Dr Warner says “it’s extremely common for someone with dementia to develop a sweet tooth”, so the carer would need to ensure they maintain a healthy balance with their food, and focus on their “nutritional intake and [making sure they are] getting enough vitamins.”
The person may also have difficulty swallowing, and if they start choking this may could deter them from eating, so Dr Warner suggests that you will “need to get a speech and language swallowing assessment.” Being flexible around meal times is also recommended, and it is best to avoid times when the person is feeling tired or distressed. Dr Warner says make the food “available at the time the person wants to eat. People will forget that they have had a meal, but they will also forget they have not had a meal, so they need to be encouraged to eat.”
Ensuring the carer remains calm, compassionate and patient is the best way to approach and manage a person living with dementia. The individual’s personality and behaviour may change, but there are always methods available to maintain their quality of life.