Eating well with dementia

Unfortunately, one-third of older adults with dementia are malnourished. In this blog, we delve into vital strategies for preventing this.

Getting the right nutrients

Research has shown that malnourished people visit their GP twice as often and have 3 times the number of hospital admissions. Malnutrition occurs not just when there is lack of food but can be caused by a lack of nutrient dense food also. Malnutrition can lead to adverse effects on tissue, muscles and body composition. Our bodies need a certain balance of nutrients to stay fit and healthy. The good news is malnutrition is preventable. As we age, getting enough nutrients can be challenging. We tend to feel less hungry and eat less than before, yet our bodies don’t absorb nutrients as well as they once did. When eating becomes a challenge, we must make the most out of the foods we do eat. Choosing more nutrient dense foods will help to prevent malnutrition. Nutrient dense foods contain an abundance of body boosting substances such as essential vitamins and minerals, lean proteins, fibre, and unsaturated fats. Focusing on eating these foods will make sure that even if someone has a small appetite, they are receiving more of the nutrition they require.

Encouraging someone to eat nourishing food

It can be very distressing when someone you love isn’t eating properly. Weight loss can leave a person more vulnerable to infections, and less able to fight any illnesses. Unfortunately, when that person is living with dementia, it can be even harder to encourage proper eating habits. There are several things you can do to try and make food more appealing to your loved one, and increase the likelihood of them eating well:

  • Get the person involved in the preparation of food – even simple tasks will help. Their appetite may be stimulated through the touch of food, or the smell of cooking food.
  • Try smaller portions, sometimes a larger meal may look overwhelming.
  • Give the person food you know they will like. We all have our favourite foods, and it is no different for someone living with dementia. Try not to worry if the food they love doesn’t exactly suit the occasion – a bowl of soup for Sunday lunch will be fine!
  • Consider how easy the food is to eat. Things like soups and stews may be easier than meals which require more difficult tasks like cutting up meat.
Care professional cooking with client

Creating the right environment

Make sure the environment at mealtimes is as calm as possible to help the person feel settled and reassured. Perhaps get your loved one to help you set the table with favourite cutlery and perhaps even flowers on the table if you think this is something they would like. One of the simplest things you can do to make eating easier for someone living with dementia is to think about the presentation of the food itself. Go for a contrast in colour to make it more obvious for someone to understand what food they have been given. For example, serve strawberries in a white bowl and mashed potato on a darker coloured plate. If using utensils is difficult then finger food can be a better option, perhaps sandwiches cut into bite size pieces, cubes of cheese, and fruit. Other things that can be helpful are things like non-slip mats, cutlery that is adapted to be easier to grip and cups that are easier to hold. You can find out more information on the Alzheimer’s Society website.

Strawberries in white bowl

We can help!

At Home Instead, we understand the unique challenges of dementia and strive to provide compassionate care tailored to individual needs. Our trained Care Professionals can offer assistance with meal planning, preparation, and eating, ensuring your loved ones receive nutritious meals while maintaining their independence and dignity. Let us support your journey towards better nutrition and overall well-being for those living with dementia.