Dementia & Eating Challenges

In working with caregivers of individuals with dementia, a frequent issue is a change in their eating habits. Common behavioral changes include: a change in food preferences; an increase or decrease in food intake; and a resistance to eating. In addition, this can be accompanied by mood changes such as the person becoming more agitated, or the opposite, more withdrawn during mealtime.

As there is increased confusion accompanying the progression of various types of dementia, there can be additional causes of an individual's dietary changes such as: not recognizing food; medications which interfere with appetite; lack of physical activity; fatigue; pain; decreased sense of smell and taste; and difficulty swallowing.

Here are practical tips to help with appetite:
1.Eating is a social activity. Join the person during the meal by eating together or engaging in conversation  while eating;
2.Making mealtime more pleasant by eliminating distractions (i.e., TV) by playing background music;
3.Helping to differentiate food from the plate by having food served on a brightly colored plate;
4.Offering foods that are easy to chew and swallow;
5.Providing food in smaller portions or serving one type of food at a time rather than the customary three large meals;
6.Adding a sweet item to the plate such as a sweet potato, or apple sauce if sweets are becoming a preference;
7.Introducing easy to eat foods such as sandwiches, finger foods, or smoothies; and
8.Adding adaptive equipment

Generally speaking, individuals with a form of dementia tend to eat more quantity at breakfast time and appetite tends to diminish as the day progresses so it is best to offer quantity and variety during the first meal of the day. If, on the other hand, the person is constantly ravenous and opts for “unhealthy” food choices, that’s the time to NOT make these foods easily available

Please feel free to Contact