Dementia care with hydration and nutrition
Welcome to our living with dementia blog, focussing on hydration and nutrition. We hope this will provide useful information to help assist relatives in caring for loved ones that suffer from dementia.
The main reason behind people suffering with poor hydration & nutrition is their issues associated with eating, drinking & swallowing. It is important for people living with dementia to make sure they have a healthy, balanced diet, however memory loss and physical difficulties can make it more difficult to eat and drink as well. Some of the issues that can occur due to the effects of confusion & dementia can include:
- Forgetting about their eating routine, leading to potential overeating.
- Missing meals.
- Eating the same food daily.
- Experiencing difficulties in preparing food or drink.
The effects of these difficulties can lead to malnutrition, dehydration or even weight loss. Poor appetite & weight loss are common characteristics when dealing with dementia conditions. This is a result of developing changes in how they experience flavours and general loss in interest of food.
Helping people with Dementia to drink
The relationship between dementia sufferers & drinking is their inability to recognise when they are thirsty or knowing how to communicate their thirst. Here are some tips below on how to encourage those to increase their fluid intake -
- Always having a drink next to the person, put it where they can see it clearly.
- Offering cold / hot drinks or adding flavour if they do not like water.
- Help them to drink if they struggle to pick up cups.
- Encourage the person to eat food with a high liquid content, such as ice lollies, yoghurts and gravy.
Helping people with Dementia to eat
Encouraging people with dementia to eat is all about making them feel comfortable. One of the most recommended actions is being flexible about mealtimes, this gives the person time to eat and not be rushed. The environment of the their eating location can also have a positive impact, you can ensure the room is well lit and turn off any noisy distractions such as the TV or radio. Other recommendations include:
- Be led by the person with dementia on where they would like to sit and eat. Ensure that they are comfortable.
- Offer small and regular portions, try not to overload the plate with lots of food. Consider serving half portions to keep hot food from going cold and losing its appeal.
- Involve them in dinner preparation.
- If you or others are eating at the same time, it may help encourage them to eat.
- If they struggle to swallow seek advice from your GP.
Weight loss or weight gain with Dementia
Eating and drinking issues caused by dementia can expose people to weight loss & malnutrition. They may also feel tired and weak. Ways to encourage appetite include:
- Make food look and smell appealing. Use different tastes, colours and smells to stimulate their appetite.
- Give the person gentle reminders to eat, and remind them what the food is.
- If they don't want to eat a main meal at set times, try preparing finger food to snack on instead
Overeating is a massive risk with sufferers being drawn to sweet or starchy foods and forgetting that they have recently eaten. Whilst making sure they do not gain an unhealthy amount of weight you should look to replace the sweet/starchy food with healthier alternatives, for example fruit or low-calorie jelly. Other solutions towards overcoming weight gain can include:
- Serving food in smaller portions.
- Ensure that the person has something to do, so that they don’t feel bored or lonely.
- Make sure the person is well hydrated as they may be mistaking thirst for hunger.
- Consider not having certain foods in the house, or substituting them with low-fat or low-calorie versions.
At Oxford House Community Care, we have experience in caring for those with dementia and we can tailor our care packages to suit individual needs to ensure your loved one is taken care of, giving you reassurance and peace of mind. Contact us to find out more.