Dementia: The impact upon nutrition
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is part of everyday life and is important for a person’s physical and mental health wellbeing, not at least for elderly people living with dementia. Having a healthy diet can improve a person’s quality of life. However, many vulnerable people with dementia may experience a change with their relationship with food and drink. As dementia progresses, the behavioral, emotional and physical changes that occur can make eating and drinking more difficult.
Not maintaining healthy eating and drinking habits, can lead to weight loss or gain, dehydration and other problems including fatigue, higher risk of infections such as urinary tract infections, constipation and less muscle strength. A lack of nutrition and many of these health problems can lead to headaches, increased confusion and the risk of delirium, and sometimes even make the symptoms of dementia worse. While a healthy, balanced diet is important to all individuals, in the later stages of dementia the most important thing is making sure the person with dementia takes on nutrition in the right way.
What is dementia?
Research conducted by the Alzheimer's Society concluded there are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK and is predicted to increase to 1.6 million by 2040. One person every 3 minute develops it which equates to 209,600 people in one year.
Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a range of neurological disorders that affect the brain. It affects thinking, behavior, memory and the ability to perform everyday tasks. The brain is made up of nerve cells that communicate to each other by sending chemical messages. The term ‘dementia’ means that the nerve cells in the brain are damaged and therefore, can no longer send messages, preventing the body from functioning normally. Every person is individual and will experience dementia in their own way no matter what part of the brain is affected. There are over 200 different types of dementia, the most common being, Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia and mixed dementia.
Why might someone with dementia become malnourished?
Malnutrition comprises both over nutrition which is the excess of food and calories and undernutrition, which is the depletion of body energy stores and loss of body mass. Malnutrition results mainly from eating an inadequate diet in which either the quantity and/or quality of nutrients does not meet the needs of our body. Undernutrition is the main and most common problem with vulnerable people living with dementia. It affects up to 10% of older people living at home, 30% of those living in care homes, and 70% of hospitalised older people.
As a person's cognitive function declines, there are many reasons why people with dementia may experience problems with eating and drinking including;
● Changes in appetite or taste
● Forgetting to eat and drink
● Difficulties preparing food and drink
● Feelings of becoming overwhelmed with too many choices
● Problems communicating
● Difficulty with eating utensils
● Not recognising that they are thirsty or hungry
● Poor coordination
● Getting tired more easily
● Issues with chewing or swallowing
How to encourage someone to keep nourished?
There are various methods you can use to increase a loved one's appetite and interest in food and drink. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes, routines and preferences. There are several tips and tricks on the Alzheimer’s Society website that may help such as;
● Make food look and smell appealing
● Food tastes may change, so try stronger flavours or sweet foods
● Encourage the person to get involved at mealtimes
● Try to give the person encouragement and gentle reminders to eat
● A relaxed, friendly atmosphere with soft music
● Use eating and drinking as an opportunity for activity and social stimulation
However, the best way to ensure someone is eating a healthy balanced diet is to be there in person during mealtimes, however, we know that may not always be possible, that is where Home instead Cannock can come in.
How can Home Instead Cannock help?
Home Instead Cannock is the area’s leading home care provider for the elderly and a specialist in dementia care for people at home. Our care at home services in Cannock were rated Outstanding by the CQC and we understand that each individual experiences dementia differently; that's why our care is tailored to fit around you or your loved one’s life.
If someone is unable to leave the home, we can attend at mealtimes, not only to help prepare meals but also to monitor that your loved one is enjoying a well-balanced diet. Our CAREGivers can spend time with your loved one and assist in making mealtimes a positive and enjoyable experience. We have developed a unique training programme for our CAREGivers which is accredited by City & Guilds and specialised for the home environment. Developed by leading experts in ageing and dementia from around the world, it helps our CAREGivers to provide the best quality care possible using different strategies to support the person living with dementia.
Worried about your loved one and are looking for some help to manage with preparing meals and ensuring they are enjoying a healthy balanced diet? Contact us to find out more or book a free consultation to evaluate needs and prepare a tailored plan to support you or a loved one.