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The Importance of Food for People with Dementia

The issue of food can be upsetting when it comes to people with dementia. They are prone to forget to eat, how to eat, and eventually how to swallow. This problem is exacerbated by liquids. For this reason, you can buy thickening agents to add to things like coffee and even water. It is tasteless and odorless but it allows liquid to be swallowed in the same way as solid foods and prevents aspiration.

women having breakfast

In nursing facilities, staff monitors each patient's ability to eat and drink. A patient in decline will be placed on watch and possibly be placed on a 1-to-1 during mealtimes. As that point gets closer the patient may need to be fed as their condition worsens.

Due to the gradual downward slope of dementia, food becomes a focal point for caregivers. It becomes apparent quite quickly that loved ones are beginning to shed pounds. It is at this point, and even prior, that the person is asked a series of questions.

The first, and most important, is what they like to eat. As with anyone, tastes change over time. Someone who enjoyed hot dogs may now say they would prefer chicken. This is important due to the fact that people won’t eat what they do not want. The second question should be about when to eat. We all tend to think of “three square meals” a day but this is flawed. Some enjoy eating early, some late. Others may enjoy breakfast more than dinner. Keep these things in mind as you work on an internal schedule and meal planning. The goal in all of this is to make food accessible and delectable to the individual.

It is always great to have non-meal activities based around food. This, of course, includes regular meal times but can also include cookie decorating, baking brownies, or ice cream sundae parties. Each is designed to include sweet foods that can add some weight to the scale.

Remember that this is not force-feeding. In fact, if the person is uninterested then you can back down. However, a better solution would be to simply ask the individual what they would like to eat. They may swat you away but they might also tell you what they want. Pay attention to the person’s needs and you will find ways to keep them eating for as long as possible.

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