Do regular meals and nutrition have an impact on the well-being of a person with dementia?
You should not limit the health and diet of a person living with dementia based on how the condition is affecting them. Nutrition is extremely important for individuals with dementia, and their symptoms and diet should be closely watched by caretakers to ensure they're getting all the required nutrients.
When the symptoms of dementia advance, it becomes hard to get someone to eat something, especially if that thing is healthy. However, when formulating a care plan, dementia symptoms and a steady diet should be factored in. Creating a diet that caters to the needs of the client and where they prefer eating are things that should also be included in the care plan. An individual’s eating habits can be greatly affected by the environment in which they are eating in; since that usually determines their level of comfortability.
For individuals with dementia, it is usually recommended that you feed them a diet that is high in protein and calories since poor food consumption can result in mobility loss, frailness and weight loss. Strokes heart attacks and other vascular diseases can also be prevented with a healthy diet.
Diet is a major part of the care provided by Cedar Home Care, considering that a balanced diet can make a significant difference in the lives of dementia patients, and is supervised by our resident nutritionist.
Mealtime and nutritional diet tips for dementia
If you have a family member or friend that lives with dementia, the following tips can help improve their consumption of nutrients:
- Try to get the person to develop a routine by eating regular meals at regular intervals.
- Try to consume recognizable foods; for instance, chicken with a side of vegetables is simpler for the person with dementia to recognize and accept than cottage pie with gravy.
- Don’t drink tea during mealtime – tea contains tannins, which have been known to prevent the iron in food from being absorbed.
- Small meals should be consumed often – if consuming entire meals is proving to be difficult, try snacking on something in the mid-morning, mid-afternoon and evening.
- Give the person enough time to finish their meal – but if the food is not being touched at all after 30 minutes, remove it from the table; cold food is distressful and not appetising.
Dementia dinner – tips on creating an environment conducive for eating
It is extremely important to create a proper environment when trying to get someone with dementia to eat. Obstacles that can prevent them from eating include bad lighting, background noise and uncomfortable chairs.
If you want a friend or family member with dementia to enjoy their nutritious meal, follow the tips below:
- Minimize distractions – switch off any background music or television.
- Use familiar cutlery and crockery and keep using the exact same ones for every meal – try to use plates that are large, plain looking and have coloured edges (helps the individual recognize the plate’s edge).
- The person should be able to contrast the colour of the plate and table; for example, a black plate should be placed on a white table to make it less confusing for the individual to be able to make out the shapes.
- If the person struggles with crockery – cut the food up for them but encourage them to feed themselves with a fork or a spoon or even using their fingers.
- Make sure the plate is easily reachable and within their line of site.
- If you decide to eat with them, slow down your pace so you pressure them to eat faster.
- You may have to remind individuals whose dementia is advanced to chew and swallow.
- Food temperature should be checked – make sure the meal isn’t too hot because people with dementia can’t tell.
- Always encourage them to eat and drink because people with dementia might not notice or understand hunger and thirst.