Dementia And Eating Issues In Patients

dementia and eating issues

For a person with dementia, the topic of dementia and eating is important to discuss.

This is because individuals with dementia usually go through several changes; one of them being how they eat.

Below you will explore some of the common eating challenges persons with dementia face.

It is important to understand each to act accordingly.

Common Eating Challenges for Persons with Dementia

Poor Appetite

poor appetite
A high percentage of individuals who have dementia experience lack of appetite at some point.

There are several explanations of why individuals can lose their appetite, including:

1. Depression

It is common for people with dementia to go through depression, which can be the cause of loss of appetite.

If you notice that a loved one or person under your care has depression, talk to your doctor right away.

He or she will prescribe the ideal medication or other therapies to help treat depression.

2. Constipation

This is another problem that can make one feel nauseous and bloated; thus, feel less likely to eat.

Try and avoid constipation by making sure the person with dementia takes lots of fluid and foods that are rich in fiber. If this condition becomes worse, consult your GP.

3. Communication

An individual who has the illness may have a tough time communicating well that they are hungry or do not like the food in front of them.

Take cue of how such people try and pass the message. For instance, closing the mouth for refusing to swallow can be an indication that they do not like the food that is on the table.

You can offer food choices using pictures and prompts so that a person can enjoy what they are eating.

Other factors that can trigger loss of appetite include when a person is experiencing pain, tiredness, changes in medication, or lack of physical exercises that make one not feel hungry.

Mouth Infections

mouth infections
There are times when dementia and eating issues come about because a person simply cannot eat the food even when they want to.

They can have bad teeth, redness, or sores in the mouth. If this is the case, visit a dentist to get a practical solution.

Caregivers can also help by taking care of their loved ones’ dental hygiene. This includes ensuring that they brush and floss their teeth at least two times a day.

It is also advisable to serve foods that are easy to chew. Solid foods can be cut into small pieces to make them more manageable.

You may also have to seek the services of an occupational therapist if a person is having challenges moving their muscles to open the mouth.

The professionals will come up with ways to help them eat.

Insatiable Appetite

dementia and eating - insatiable appetite
While some people with dementia will experience loss of appetite, others will want to eat non-stop.

It may be possible that they may have forgotten when they had the last meal or be afraid of where the next one will come from.

Naturally, this is not healthy as overeating also comes with its fair share of negative health issues.

To try and tackle such a situation, you can serve five-to-six small meals throughout the day.

You can also avail of low-calorie snacks like carrots and apples that the person will munch on when they feel hungry.

Remember to cut down on processed foods, refined sugars, and foods with high sodium levels.

Engaging the individuals in physical exercises or other enjoyable activities can also help to take their mind off food.

Sweet Cravings

dementia and eating - sweet cravings
Some individuals with dementia will all over sudden develop a sweet tooth where they are always craving something sweet to eat.

Although you can give in to their demands a couple of times, it is not right to always give them sweet foods that are not good for their health.

To manage the cravings, you can opt to try food items like egg nogs, milkshakes and low-calorie ice cream that can help satisfy the cravings without causing too much damage.

Fruit can come in handy during such times. You should also check some of the side effects that the medicine the person with dementia is on.

Some antidepressant medications can make someone crave sweets. It is also advisable to share meals with your loved ones as this might increase their chances of eating the healthy meal you provide.

Decreased Judgment

decreased judgment
Another factor that may contribute to dementia and eating problems in an individual is decreased judgment.

This is where a person with dementia may not be able to know what food items are on their plate or what to do with the cutlery before them.

You may notice that a person tries to eat from a cup rather than a plate.

Some may even use knives to try and pick up food instead of a spoon or fork.

To help with such, you can cue the person with actions or words so that they can mimic the effects of eating like putting food on a spoon and taking it to the mouth.

If the person is still struggling, be respectful and ask if they need assistance and go-ahead to offer a hand in a way that does not make them feel less of a person.

You can also serve finger foods that do not require utensils to consume like sandwiches and miniature quiches.

Swallowing Difficulties

trouble swallowing
Some patients with dementia will experience Dysphagia, where they have difficulties swallowing food.

This can come about as a result of the changes that occur in the brain.

Environmental changes like noisy dining rooms can also make one experience difficulties while swallowing.

You must be very careful with this because it can cause further problems like choking, poor nutrition, aspiration where food goes down the wrong way in the lungs, and reduced life quality.

To give assistance, it is vital to create a comfortable and relaxed eating environment where a person will be at ease.

You can also use contrasting colored cutlery and plates so that the individual can easily see the food.

It may also help to offer small food amounts so that they can swallow without too much difficulty.

Softer textured food might also be an option as it is easy to chew and swallow.

A speech and language therapist can help when you feel like the swallowing issue is getting out of hand.

Agitation and Irritability

agitation and irritability
During mealtimes, a person with dementia may experience behavior changes where one becomes angry, agitates, or irritable.

These can manifest in different ways like spitting out food, throwing away the food, or simply refusing to eat.

Before you dismiss the individual, try and find out why they are acting this way.

Some possible reasons for this behavior changes may include:

  • The food is too hot
  • A person does not like what is on the table
  • They are frustrated by the eating difficulties they are facing
  • Rushed eating
  • They do not like the eating area or the people around
  • They want assistance eating, etc.

When faced with such a scenario, remember to be as calm as possible so that it does not escalate and become worse. Never put pressure or rush a person as they eat.

You can also take the food away and wait for them to cool down before offering something to eat or drink.

It is also important to try and read body language to pick up clues on what the person wants.

You should also note that this is not the time for criticism and nagging. Offer plenty of support keeping in mind that the individual may not be in control of how they react.

They act the way they do because of the changes that happen in their brain because of the memory-loss disease.

Declining Motor and Visual Abilities

declining motor and visual abilities
In regards to dementia and eating problems, the individual with the illness may experience a decline in motor and visual abilities as the disease progresses.

He or she may have a difficult time trying to comprehend where some objects concerning each other.

This often affects co-ordination and movement, which can cause problems when a person is eating.

Some helpful tips that can make things a lot easier for the person with dementia include offering colorful foods that are easily distinguishable.

You may also want to avoid the use of paper napkins or Styrofoam cups that a person might eat by mistake.

Store away the fragile China porcelain and do not place sharp knives on the table. It is also recommended to offer one food at a time to avoid overwhelming the person with dementia.

Closing Thought

Eating well is essential for anyone who has dementia if they want to stay healthy. A balanced diet is key to enhancing the quality of life. Not eating enough makes you prone to unhealthy weight loss, lower muscle strength, higher risk of infection, and a myriad of other health problems.

For people with dementia, it is vital to work closely with a dietician who will advise on the best foods to consume at every stage of the illness.

You should also note that each person’s dementia and eating journey is unique. For this reason, it also helps to take into account an individual’s culture, history, beliefs, and preference when coming up with diet plans.

This will help you to tailor appropriate eating solutions that will meet their preferences and nutritional needs.

Coping With Dementia And Behavior Changes

coping with dementia

It is vitally important to be armed with the right information about coping with dementia and behavior changes.

A person who has dementia goes through many stages and conditions in their lives, which might surprise you if you are unaware of them.

This is because the disease affects the brain triggering the loss of thinking skills, memory, communication, and many other aspects.

People with dementia may behave differently, especially during the middle to the final stages of the illness.

It mostly happens when an individual discovers that they are no longer in control of what is happening in and out of their lives.

This can cause a lot of stress not only for the person who has dementia but their loved ones and caregivers as well.

Depending on how the illness affects a person, there are various ways you may notice changes in how they conduct themselves.

Coping with dementia behavior changes

Here are a few common behavior changes examples and what to do when they occur.

Fidgeting and Restlessness

coping with dementia fidgeting and restlessness
At some point, many people with dementia will develop restlessness behaviors. This is where an individual gets into the habit of pacing up and down without reason.

They may also start fidgeting without cause from the blues. Some will get agitated very quickly and may want to lash out at people all the time.

To take care of this issue, it is important that the person with dementia have a routine that they try and stick to on a daily basis.

This can help to keep them calm because they know what they do every day; thus, there is no need to fidget around or be restless.

Regular exercise has also been known to minimize restlessness.

When you notice that a person is always fidgeting, it is advisable to keep their hands busy with items like worry beads, or other items that they consider meaningful.

In the case of agitation, it may help to create a calm, soothing environment for a person who is triggered. Talking reassuring and lovingly to the person can help cool them down.

You may also want to consider something like a massage or any other activity that helps promote relaxation.


coping with dementia wandering
Individuals who have dementia may start to walk around aimlessly.

There are multiple reasons why they can do this, such as medication side effects, boredom, or they want to look for someone or something.

Wandering can put someone in danger.

A person can even get lost since they may not be able to trace their way back home.

To prevent this from happening, there are a couple of solutions you can explore to help you in the journey of coping with dementia, like:

  • Changing locks so that the person with the illness cannot easily get out of the house alone. It may seem a little mean, but there are times when you need to do this to keep the individual safe.
  • Accompanying the individuals on walks or when they go to the shops is encouraged.
  • Consider alarm systems, home monitoring systems, and tracking devices to enhance security.
  • A person fond of wandering should wear an ID bracelet with the phone number of a relative. It comes in handy when somehow they get lost because someone out there can help them get reunited with their caregiver.

Hallucinations and Delusions

hallucinations and delusions
A person with dementia may, at times, develop false beliefs or delusions.

At times when a person with dementia experiences delusions, it can be paranoia.

For instance, a person might think that a spouse is being unfaithful, someone is stealing from them or people are out to get them.

Delusions can also be related to loss of memory. In such an instance, one might want to wake up and go to work even when they retired long ago.

Others may feel the need to take care of children even when they do not have any or get in a car and drive when they do not have a license.

When a person is going through these episodes, it is important to go in and see the doctor. The professional will be in the best position to rule out any medical issues.

Abrupt mental status changes can be brought about by pneumonia, constipation, urinary tract infections, dehydration, and other medical conditions.

At home, loved ones can try and distract the person with dementia with a conversation that sparks their interest.

Caregivers should not tell the affected individual not to be scared.

Instead, it is better to empathize with what they are going through and offer reassurance in a comforting and respectful manner.

You should also check out the environment that triggers hallucinations.

Be on the lookout for auditory and visual cues that may make a person feel threatened.

Eliminate or minimize shadows, objects, and noises that can be misperceived as disturbing or scary.

You should also try and identify the items that make the person feel secure.

It can be anything from a stuffed animal, photography, spiritual or religious item.


A high percentage of people with dementia also suffer from depression.

Getting to know if a person who has dementia also has depression can be quite challenging since both conditions have similar symptoms.

A medical professional can, however, conduct a thorough evaluation to diagnose depression.

Thankfully, depression does not have to be a huge burden to someone coping with dementia.

Treatment is available and it normally involves a combination of counseling, medication and continuing reconnection to people and activities that bring bliss.

As a caregiver do not be the one always to tell a dementia patient to “try harder,” “snap out of it,” or “cheer up” because this rarely helps.

People who have dementia and depression cannot simply get better by themselves. They need a lot of professional help, reassurance, and support.

Sleep Problems

sleep problems
Many senior dementia patients complain about sleep all the time. Poor sleeping habits, certain medications, alcohol use, and stress are some contributing factors that lead to disturbed sleep.

Restlessness, agitation, and confusion can also affect how a person with dementia sleeps.

Studies reveal that sleep issues are one of the reasons individuals with dementia have to stay in nursing homes.

So that a person can function well, they must get enough quality sleep.

Some tips that can help with ensuring a person with dementia does not end up struggling to get a shut-eye include:

1. Keeping away from alcohol because it contributes to confusion and also increases anxiety.

2. Limit beverages and food that contain high caffeine levels, especially later in the day because it can lead to sleeplessness.

3. Plan the days in a way that incorporates numerous activities. When you fill-up the days with meaningful activities, it can lead to exhaustion so that a person sleeps well at night.

It can be anything from taking walks, exercising, or participating in involving hobbies. However, you must be careful not to overstimulate the individual with dementia.

This will only lead to disorientation, which is not healthy for one’s sleeping time. It is also important to limit nap time as this can also affect how a person sleeps.

It may also help to come up with a bedtime routine that mainly focuses on relaxing activities such as giving the person with the illness a massage or listening to soft music.


Some people will dementia will pick up a habit along the way where they cannot let go of their possessions.

As a person who is coping with dementia, several things that can lead to the development of this behavior like isolation, loss, fear, and memories of the past.

To help the individual deal with this, you can try and keep them busy with other things. For instance, you can give them a box full of different items that they can sort.

You can also learn where a person hides the things they want to hoard and remove them without the individual noticing.

You must be very careful with this so as not to agitate them further causing more problems.

Closing Remarks

There is no set of rules that you should follow when it comes to coping with dementia.

To best meet the challenges, you need to use a lot of compassion, creativity, patience, and flexibility to try and make the best out of a rather challenging situation.

Some things must be put into consideration when dealing with a person who has dementia, like:

1. It is not possible to change the person because it is a brain disorder that shapes how they behave.

2. Rather than try and control behavior, it’s best to try and accommodate the new changes in the best possible way.

For example, if a person wants to sleep on the floor, do not force them to climb on the bed. You can place a mattress on the floor instead to make them feel as comfortable as possible.

3. When there is a sudden behavior change, it is always wise to consult with a doctor. This is because some problems may come about because of various underlying medical reasons.

A person with dementia may be in pain or be experiencing side effects from the medications they are taking.

Sometimes, hallucinations or side effects may be caused by treatment or medication that is helping to manage the condition.

13 Tips On Dealing With Dementia For Caregivers

dealing with dementia

Records from The Alzheimer’s Association reveal that about fifteen million people in the US actively participate as caregivers for people dealing with dementia.

Looking after someone who has dementia is not an easy task.

It presents a wide range of challenges for both professionals and novices. This is because the illness comes with several symptoms like disorientation, inability to effectively communicate, and memory loss, etc.

That can take a toll on the person experiencing the condition as well as the individuals who provide regular care.

As a caregiver, your main responsibility is to ensure that the individual who is under your care remains as physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy as they can be.

While serving as a caregiver, it is vital to know how to deal with the issues that may crop up daily skillfully.

Below you will get to learn some priceless tips caregivers can employ to make the task at hand more manageable and fulfilling.

Best Tips When Dealing With Dementia

Understand that Patience is Paramount

understand that patience is paramount when dealing with dementia
A majority of people underestimate the level of patience you need to care for a person dealing with dementia. Note that an individual with dementia has to deal with the unexpected changes that are happening to their body.

They are continuously struggling to regain some of the skills they lose including thinking and speaking. It can make one feel agitated or hopeless most of the time.

This is why a caregiver needs to practice patience and try as much as possible to relieve the mental and emotional pressure that a loved one with dementia has.

Plan your time accordingly because rushing the individual you are caring for will not help much. It will only lead to more confusion between both parties.

Do Not Be Afraid To Ask For Help

do not be afraid to ask for help when dealing with dementia
Whether you are caregiving for a relative or you offer expert help, always be ready to accept support. Several support groups for family caregivers exist.

Search for the groups close to your location and pick the one you are most comfortable with.

Such groups are beneficial in that they create a safe space that caregivers can use to talk about the issues they have with other people who are in similar situations.

The interaction that happens in a group setting can also act as a learning environment where you can pick up one or more techniques to incorporate into your care plan.

Support groups are not a preserve for family members.

Expert caregivers can also join such groups where they can ask for assistance from colleagues, mentors, and other able individuals when facing challenging times.

Never feel bad for seeking a hand or wanting to talk to someone when things are tough.

Avoid Open-End Questions

dealing with dementia tip - avoid open end questions
It is advisable to limit the questions you pose to individuals who have dementia. When you have to ask questions, let them be simple queries that need a “yes” or “no” response.

Do not overwhelm the person who is under your care. Ask one question at a time and study the behavior of the respondent to know when it is time to go easy with all the questions.

Do Not Argue With a Person Who Has Dementia

do not argue with a person who has dementia
Caregivers need to know that arguing with a person who is dealing with dementia is highly frowned upon.

Worth noting is that the brain of a person with dementia usually malfunctions.

This means that they may end up saying things that do not make sense or make false statements because this is what the brain is instructing them to do.

Express Love and Care Through Touch

express love and care through touch
One of the simplest ways to support a person with dementia is through touch. By holding their hands, you can share your love and assistance, making them feel better.

No one truly understands what goes through their mind; however, with simple gestures, you can help alleviate the condition they are experiencing both mentally and physically.

Even things like caressing their back or face, as well as brushing their hair and whatnot, all positively impacts the person.

Sometimes, the simples things have the biggest and the most positive effect.

It is not always about the treatment and the pills, expressing appreciation and care can be done in all sorts of different, drug-free ways.

Maintain Positive Healthy Relationship

maintain positive healthy relationship
Before you sign up as a caregiver, you must understand that at times the job can be harsh. It is, therefore, your duty to try and maintain a positive relationship with the person with the memory illness since there isn’t much they can do to control the situation.

Come up with creative ways to support the relationship so that both of you are happy.

This can include doing things such as creative activities like music and art, reminiscence, shared hobbies, or life story work.

Encourage Physical Activities

encourage physical activities
As you are caring for an individual dealing with dementia, you may notice that the person you are caring for just wants to sit at home and lock out the entire world.

This is not good as it may end up doing them more harm than good. Encourage the person under your care to take part in physical outdoor activities if they are capable.

Start small even if it is just going out to walk for a few minutes. Numerous studies show that regular physical activity or exercise plays a significant role in living better with the illness.

Ensure you pick out activities that both of you enjoy. Remember to involve the person you are looking after to avoid forcing them to do something they do not want.

Break Down Activities into Manageable Steps

break down activities into manageable steps
Rather than expecting the individual under your care to jump on a task and complete it right away, break it down so that they complete it in a series of steps.

Cheer the person on and tell them to do as much as they can without too much pressure.

If there are some steps they forget, gently remind them. Step in and offer assistance in the areas where he or she cannot complete an activity on their own.

Experts also advise on the use of visual cues when communicating with the individual because it helps show them what to do next.

Take Care of Yourself

take care of yourself
It is not possible to properly look after a person when you are not in the best state yourself. You would rather have someone else take up the responsibility than end up suffering.

Take breaks when necessary and do everything in your power to be happy and positive. This may demand that you increase physical exercise, eat a balanced diet, meditate, or go for long walks in nature depending on what you like.

It is the only way you will be able to handle the “job” in the best possible way.

Create a Peaceful Environment

create a peaceful environment
This particularly applies to people with dementia who still live at home. Go the extra mile to make sure that the person who is dealing with dementia gets to live in a serene environment.

Get rid of clutter in the room because this can overwhelm anyone even when they are not ill. Simply create a dementia-friendly home.

You may need to change the colors of the room where the person under your care spends the most time. This is because bright colors normally act as stimulants, while subtle colors promote calmness.

The use of pleasant fragrances from sachets and fresh flowers can also be aroma-therapeutic fostering a sense of peacefulness. If one wants to listen to music, let it be something soothing.

Avoid Power Struggles

avoid power struggles
The following has a lot to do with how you communicate with the person you are caring for. Your primary responsibility is to make them feel secure and happy.

Do not be the person who always nags and causes avoidable conflict. Learn to listen more with your heart, eyes, and ears.

It is also wise to respond with reassurance and affection because people with dementia often feel anxious, confused, and unsure of themselves.

Avoid trying to tell the person they are wrong because this will only make them feel worse. Be keen to pick on the feelings that the person you are caring for showcases and respond with physical and verbal expressions of support, comfort, and reassurance.

Sometimes something as simple as hugging, touching, holding hands, and praise can get the person to respond when all other avenues fail.

Schedule Routines Wisely

schedule routines wisely
Many people who care for individuals with dementia will tell you that routines are vital to peaceful coexistence between caregivers and the persons they are looking after. When you are coming up with these routines, be sure to plan things well.

For instance, tasks like medical appointments and taking a shower need to be placed earlier on in the day. This is where a person is feeling most refreshed and alert.

Schedules should also not be rigid. Allow flexibility for some spur-of-the-moment activities or those rather tricky days.

Create Time for Reflection

create time for reflection
As you are planning activities, it is vital to have some time for reflection.

This is particularly important in the early stages when the person has been diagnosed with dementia since most people usually have a hard time accepting the new developments.

Alter expectations and be ready to deal with fresh challenges with each new stage of the illness. Caregivers also need to find the strength to celebrate successes and mourn losses.

Maintain a Sense of Humor

maintain a sense of humor
Indeed, humor is important for any person looking after a loved one or client with dementia.

Tell jokes when possible being careful not to do this at the person’s expense.

Laughter has been known to be therapeutic for many people. Studies also confirm that it is beneficial to those with memory loss.

Laughing makes a person forget about their troubles for a while because it acts as a stress reliever. Laughter can also help relieve some of the pressure you may be feeling like someone’s caretaker.

Closing Remarks

Taking care of an individual who has dementia does not come naturally for most. Caregivers have loads to learn along the way as they spend time with people dealing with dementia.

It starts by having a deep understanding of the dementia process so that you can know the type of care to extend.

The care process, however, does not have to be stressful at all times.

You can work with some of the tips above to improve the quality of life of the person with dementia enjoying heartening bonding experiences for both of you.

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