How Does Dementia Affect Eating & Drinking

Wear it pink 2022 - Ashridge Home Care

Dementia, a progressive condition affecting memory, thinking, and behaviour, can have a significant impact on a person’s ability to eat and drink properly. These changes can be frustrating for both the individual and their carers, but understanding the reasons behind them can make the journey a little easier.

Here’s how dementia can affect eating and drinking:

Physical and Sensory Changes:

  • Motor skills: Stiffness, tremors, and difficulty coordinating utensils can make it challenging to eat independently.
  • Sensory changes: Altered taste and smell can make food unappealing, leading to loss of appetite.
  • Oral health issues: Difficulty chewing or swallowing can be painful and cause avoidance of certain foods.

Cognitive and Emotional Changes:

  • Memory loss: Individuals may forget to eat or drink or misunderstand instructions about mealtimes.
  • Confusion and disorientation: Difficulty recognising food which can mean eating things that are raw or mistaking a block of butter for cheese for example, misusing utensils, or changes in familiar routines can lead to anxiety and reluctance to eat. Thinking that you have not eaten a meal, yet it was only a few minutes since you finished eating.
  • Depression and apathy: Loss of interest in activities often extends to meals, reducing appetite and motivation to eat.

Impact on Nutrition and Health:

  • Weight loss: Reduced calorie intake can lead to nutrient deficiencies and muscle wasting.
  • Dehydration: Difficulty recognising thirst or accessing drinks can lead to dehydration and potential health complications.
  • Increased risk of aspiration: Swallowing difficulties can lead to food or liquid entering the lungs, causing infections.

Supporting Individuals Living with Dementia:

Create a safe and comfortable environment: Minimise distractions and ensure good lighting during meals.

  • Focus on familiar foods and routines: Offer preferred dishes and maintain consistent mealtimes.
  • Adapt the dining experience: Adapt utensils, cut food into smaller pieces, and if appropriate under the guidance of a speech and language therapist, offer thicker liquids for easier swallowing.
  • Engage in the process: Involve the individual in setting the table, choosing meals, or preparing simple dishes which supports them to read the signals of start, middle and end of the activity.
  • Seek professional guidance: Consult a doctor, speech therapist, or nutritionist for personalised advice and support if you have concerns about nutritional intake and/or the functional ability to eat.

Remember, every person living with dementia experiences the condition differently. We must adapt our approach based on their specific needs and preferences. Patience, flexibility, and a focus on communication can help ensure successful mealtimes and maintain their health and well-being.

By understanding the complexities of dementia and its impact on eating and drinking, carers can navigate challenges with empathy, create supportive environments, and ensure proper nutrition for their loved ones throughout their journey.

Our Dementia Live-In Care Services: How Can We Help?

At Ashridge Home Care, we’ve been rated as Outstanding in Caring by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), a true testament to our excellent team of carers who have all been chosen and trained by us.

We understand how difficult it can be to see a loved one struggling to live alone due to dementia. That’s where we can help. Our live-in care services mean that your loved one can receive exceptional care and support from the comfort of their own home.

Whilst moving to a residential care home can provoke feelings of stress or confusion, live-in care enables the individual to stay in a place that they love, maintaining their typical day-to-day routines. Dignity and respect are prioritised with everything we do, and we make it our aim to ensure your loved one can remain both independent and happy.

If you’d like to find out more about our award-winning dementia live-in care services, call us on 01494 917344 for a friendly chat.