People living with dementia can find an array of problems eating enough of the right food.
Not eating enough to feel their best can be a common issue. Weight loss is a major consequence as well as fatigue, delirium, a weak immune system and the ability to sleep. That’s apart from other symptoms caused by vitamin deficiencies.
While many of us spend our lives fighting extra pounds, a person with dementia can forget to eat, lose their appetite or even lose their taste for certain food types. Communication difficulties can exacerbate weight loss.
Others can put on weight through comfort eating, a lack of exercise, confusion with cooking, meal prep and shopping and the convenience of high-sugar and high-fat foods such as biscuits.
While a balanced diet is what we should all be aiming for, as long as patients are eating sufficient calories, a few pounds over is no cause for concern as long as it is not worsening any other health conditions.
What to Eat
A balanced diet of fruit, vegetables, carbohydrates and protein, as well as healthy fats, is ideal. Food with high sugar content and saturated fats should be reduced. Having said that, the essential thing is to make sure people are eating enough and getting some exercise.
If a person rejects their dinner in favour of ice cream, let them eat it. There could be reasons why they prefer the ice cream, such as if they are finding it a struggle to chew bread or meat or are experiencing toothache or mouth ulcers.
To encourage a healthier diet, it is recommended to chop up a medley of brightly coloured fruits into a bowl to make it look more appetising.
Don’t serve great big portions to someone with a small appetite. If your loved one often leaves their food at mealtimes, then provide snacks between meals and at night if necessary so they can at least take in their calories little and often.
We all have our individual preferences over what time of the day to eat our big meal. For some, eating heavily late at night causes indigestion or interrupts sleep.
Food should be served at the time of your loved one’s choosing, whether it’s a plate of lasagna at lunch and a sandwich in the evening or vice versa.
Snacks and drinks should be made available so they can help themselves.
Where to Eat
Not everyone likes to eat dinner at a table or on their own. A noisy environment is not ideal for concentrating on food, so a calm, relaxed environment with some gentle background noise may be preferable to normal family mealtimes.
Acknowledging Likes and Dislikes
Our tastes change throughout our lifetime. Remember when you were small and you could eat sherbet all day, or the strangest brightly coloured pick ’n’ mix candy? How many grown-ups eat this on a regular basis? And as we become even older, the strong tea we’ve been drinking since our youth starts to make us feel nauseous. With dementia, changes in taste can become even more pronounced, which is why it’s a good idea to have lots of types of foods available, such as frozen ready meals, so you can be prepared for new preferences.
At Me2U Centre, we pride ourselves on our nutritious, delicious homemade meals that don’t leave anyone wanting. If your loved one spends a day with us, we will provide them with a main meal, cups of tea and snacks. So that’s one day off the cooking rota for you!