When someone is afflicted with dementia, their world gradually becomes more and more divergent from what they’re used to.
A person with a robust appetite can become someone who forgets to eat and drink, and it’s the caregiver’s challenge to make sure they’re eating enough nutritious foods and drinking enough fluids.
Complicating the issue may be dental problems or medications that decrease appetite or make food taste “funny.” The consequences of poor nutrition are many, including weight loss, irritability, sleeplessness, bladder or bowel problems and disorientation.
- 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 and the TV.
- Eating independently should take precedence over eating neatly or with “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 your loved one. Often they will mimic your actions and it makes the meal more pleasant to share it with someone.
- Prepare foods with your loved one in mind. If they have dentures or trouble chewing or swallowing, use soft foods or cut food into bite-size pieces.
- If chewing and swallowing are an issue, try gently moving the person’s chin in a chewing motion or lightly stroking their throat to encourage them to swallow.
- If loss of weight is a problem, offer nutritious high-calorie snacks between meals. Breakfast foods high in carbohydrates are often preferred. On the other hand, if the problem is weight gain, keep high-calorie foods out of sight. Instead, keep handy fresh fruits, veggie trays and other healthy low-calorie snacks.
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