Currently, there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK and if you’re a carer then you may be used to providing care and support to a resident who is living with this condition.
Dementia occurs when there has been damage to the brain. It can take many different forms depending on which part of the brain has been affected. The brain is usually damaged by diseases such as, Alzheimer’s or a series of strokes, which can cause cell degeneration or restrict blood flow.
One of the challenges carer’s face is ensuring a resident with dementia is eating properly, especially when they may have the inability to recognise hunger or thirst, have a preference to sweet (unhealthy) tasting foods, have difficulties chewing and swallowing or have severe weight loss.
It’s not only true that we are what we eat, but how we think and behave too!
When it comes to feeding someone with dementia, it’s vital they’re having enough protein, fibre, vitamins and fluids to ensure their bodies and brains are properly nourished.
Here are some ways you can help to do this and keep your resident happy and healthy;
It’s recommended to feed dementia patients little and often with tasty and colourful foods to ensure they have enough brain fuel.
If they have difficulties swallowing or chewing, why not try mashing or even pureeing the food? Do remember, however, that it does need to look and smell appetising to entice them to eat. Also, any difficulties should be investigated by referral to a dentist or speech and language therapist.
If you’ve never liked brussel sprouts, you’re not going to start eating them now!
It’s a good idea to base foods on what is familiar and comforting for the resident. For example, why not ask family members what their likes and dislikes are?
If possible try to feed them foods rich in Vitamin B complex which can be found in potatoes, green vegetables, milk and cheese (to name just a few) as it has been found to slow the Alzheimer process.
People living with dementia also have a decreased sensitivity to taste, so you may need to add stronger flavours to their dishes by using herbs and spices.
To help keep them hydrated throughout the day, give them a variety of different fluids, such as, soup, hot chocolate, coffee, fruit smoothies, tea, diluted cordials etc.
Don’t be offended if they refuse the food you’ve prepared
We understand it can be upsetting as a carer to have food which you’ve taken time and effort to prepare to be refused, especially when you know they need to eat it for their health and well-being.
Remember it’s not a personal insult, just wait a bit and try again.
If they continue to refuse, remember to make a record of it. To ensure you know how much they have or haven’t eaten in a day.
Our final tip!
Never ask questions that incur an easy “Yes” or “No” answer. For example, “Would you like a cup of tea?” Instead, give them two alternatives which they must pick, such as, “Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?”
You’re not alone
Don’t forget you can find support through your local community NHS staff, Community Psychiatric Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists and Dietitians.