Eating well whilst living with dementia

With one in six people aged 80 or over living with dementia, it’s paramount that we address the health issues that the condition can cause; malnutrition particularly.

It’s a common misconception that stomachs shrink as we reach old age and that we should eat less. A decent, balanced diet is just as important to older adults as it is in any other stage of life. But getting older often means losing the senses of smell and taste, reducing appetite and making somebody vulnerable to malnutrition.

Living with dementia only increases the risk of not eating well, given that it can cause someone to forget when it’s mealtime. And if there are any difficulties with the physical act of eating, sitting down for a meal can seem like too much effort.

Without being encouraged to eat substantial, healthy food, somebody living with dementia risks seeing their health deteriorate when it can actually be avoided.

How to encourage a healthy diet 

Care Professionals and loved ones can make eating and drinking easy, fun and a source of good overall health for their loved ones by doing the following:

  • Understand their tastes

It’s natural for food and drink preferences to change as we get older; what you might think is your loved one’s favourite meal might now turn them off. Have a conversation and ask them what appeals to them nowadays. Share that information with the rest of the family and their care team. Together you can get the tastebuds tingling!

  • Get a sense of their eating pattern preferences

Three meals a day aren’t necessarily required to maintain a good diet. Many ageing adults find five or six small meals a day more manageable. Try that and see if it results in substantial food consumption.

Eating well whilst living with dementia
  • Make a nice occasion out of a meal

Involve your loved one with the meal from start to finish. Give them the chance to select the food that is bought and give them chance to help cook and serve it. Pleasant smells coming from the kitchen and an inviting dining area will help get anyone excited about mealtime.

  • Ensure regular drinking

Letting yourself get dehydrated can cause confusion and hinder kidney function, not to mention worsen other conditions that commonly affect older people. One way to ensure regular fluid intake is to fill a flask with water and set an alarm that signals when it’s time to have a drink.

Eating well whilst living with dementia
  • Allow for snacking

For many of us, eating healthy snacks is how we give our diet a boost. Putting food such as fruit in easy reach will help encourage someone to supplement their meals with some vitamins. Again, setting an alarm for regular snaking will help maintain adequate food intake.

  • Maintain a balanced diet

Don’t just encourage fruit and vegetables; a balanced diet which includes a substantial amount of carbohydrates and protein is crucial. In fact, protein is particularly important as we age as it protects our muscles, immune system, body organs and brain.

Eating well whilst living with dementia
  • Prioritise oral hygiene

Problems with chewing often stem from not having a full set of strong teeth. Ensure that your loved one makes regular trips to the dentist to keep their teeth well. It will make eating a more comfortable and enjoyable part of daily routine.

  • Use home food delivery

Don’t feel pressured to ensure that every meal is home cooked. Food delivery services can alleviate the time it takes to shop for and prepare meals. Perhaps arrange it for just one day a week and see how much it helps?


Ordinary parts of our daily routine can often fade away when we develop dementia. It’s not enough to simply accept that, particularly when the tendency to eat regularly and healthily is diminishing. With some encouragement, you can get your loved one to meet their nutritional needs while adapting to their personal preferences with food and meal patterns.

Take a look at the Eatwell Guide guidance from Public Health England to see what a good diet entails.

Our Care Professionals can provide assistance with preparing meals for you or your loved ones, as part of general companionship or specialist dementia care services, all in the comfort and familiarity of home.