Dementia and Nutrition
1.1 People with Dementia will decline and their levels of functioning will deteriorate and will not be able to manage many tasks like preparing food, shopping, cleaning, washing, bathing and eating, this will gradually become worse. Cognitive changes will affect their ability to communicate, they will find it hard to listen, remember and interact with people and this will affect their diet. They many also find they have problems chewing food and swallowing so again this will affect their nutrition and health. Changes in their behaviour are also common and frustration at not being able to communicate or remember can lead to aggressive behaviour or laughing at people when they are upset. Personality changes are also common and Dementia is linked to depression in many people, this again will have an effect on their diet and nutrition
1.2 and 1.3 Weight loss is usually a part of having dementia as they will find it difficult to remember foods and have taste changes this will make the person drink and eat less with means they lose nutrients and become less healthy than before. Lack of fluids can cause increased confusion making emotional changes worse and also increasing the risk of urine infections and constipation which will cause pain and discomfort and they may feel that they don’t want to eat as a result of this.
1.4 Speak to family and establish what their favourite foods, communicate with the individual themselves. Give individuals a choice, sometimes they will communicate that they don’t like something that they have eaten before so its important to provide a variety of options. It is important to also understand their food routine, when they like to eat and where because if this suddenly changes it can lead to them becoming confused and not eating or they may just not be hungry at that time of day. It is also important that food preferences are monitored and reviewed and changes recorded so that all carers and family are aware.
1.5 People with dementia will find it difficult to ask for food because they can’t find the right words or remember the right words. Always make sure that food and drink can be seen by dementia sufferers and this will help encourage them to eat and drink regularly. Their choice of foods will vary day to day and you should also be aware of small or large appetite’s and a person with a small appetite will be put off by a large meal. As we get older we lose our sense of smell and taste so food needs to be seasoned well.
2.1/2.2/2.3 If a person is stressed it would be better to wait for then to be calm before offering food and drink. Familiar routines with meal times such as sitting to the table with a cloth and some flowers, encouraging social interaction during meal times or eating alone if this is what they prefer. Sometimes a large noisy dining room can cause upset and distract people but it is important to let them chose where they want to eat and sit. Food needs to look nice pureed food needs to be done separately and not all together so that it looks appetising and if they like a certain plate or cup to drink their tea from them make sure it is there. Involve the person in preparing for meal times, they could help to set the table, chose some music to have on while they eat.