Ensuring that someone with dementia one is eating enough nutritious foods and drinking enough fluids is a challenge. People with dementia literally begin to forget that they need to eat and drink. Complicating the issue may be dental problems or medications that decrease appetite or make food taste “funny.”
NOTE: The information below is from the Family Caregiver Alliance and is not meant to replace any clinical interventions, programs or certifications.
Eating/Nutrition: The consequences of poor nutrition are many, including weight loss, irritability, sleeplessness, bladder or bowel problems, and disorientation. Some tips to keep in mind:
- Make meal and snack times part of the daily routine and schedule them around the same time every day. Instead of three big meals, try five or six smaller ones.
- Make mealtimes a special time. Try flowers or soft music. Turn off loud radio programs or TV.
- Eating independently should take precedence over eating neatly, or “proper” table manners. Finger foods support independence. Pre-cut and season the food. Try using a straw or a child’s “sippy cup” if holding a glass has become difficult. Provide assistance only when necessary and allow plenty of time for meals.
- Sit down and eat with the individual with dementia. Often they will mimic your actions, and it makes the meal more pleasant to share it with someone.
- Prepare foods with the individual with dementia if possible. If they have dentures or trouble chewing or swallowing, use soft foods or cut food into bite-size pieces.
- If chewing and swallowing are issues, try gently moving the person’s chin in a chewing motion or lightly stroking their throat to encourage them the swallow.
Paranoia: Seeing someone suddenly become suspicious, jealous, or accusatory is unsettling. Remember, what the person is experiencing is very real to them. It is best not to argue or disagree. This, too, is part of the dementias—try not to take it personally.
- If the confused person suspects money is “missing.” Allow her to keep small amounts of money in a pocket or handbag for easy inspection.
- Help them look for the “missing” object and then distract them into another activity. Try to learn where the confused person’s favorite hiding places are for storing objects, which are frequently assumed to be “lost.” Avoid arguing.
- Take time to explain to family members and home-helpers that suspicious accusations are a part of the dementing illness.
- Try nonverbal reassurances like a gentle touch or hug. Respond to the feeling behind the accusation and then reassure the person. You might try saying, “I see this frightens you; stay with me. I won’t let anything happen to you.”