Weight Gain Or Weight Loss
Some of the eating and drinking issues associated with dementia can lead to weight loss and people with dementia are at risk of malnutrition. If a person with dementia needs to eat pureed food, its helpful to be aware that this can be less nutritious. In this instance, you could try:
- adding skimmed milk powder to whatever you are serving. Skimmed milk powder is available from most supermarkets
- mixing skimmed milk powder with milkshake powder and full fat milk to create a high nutrient drink. Choose milkshake powders such as Nesquik that are fortified with vitamins.
It is important to note that there is different nutrition and healthy eating advice for people with dementia. For most younger people, the standard advice is to follow a low fat, low sugar diet. But older people and those with dementia especially need higher nutrients, including a purchased 10 microgram Vitamin D supplement every day.
People with frontotemporal dementia might be especially drawn to sweet things or starchy foods. If overeating or weight gain is an issue, you could try:
- serving food in a portion rather than bringing out the packet or whole dish
- replacing sweet or high calorie foods with healthier alternatives such as fruit or low calorie jelly
- encouraging the person to become more active, by taking walks or swimming, or seated exercises for people with mobility issues
- storing food away from the persons line of sight so they arent tempted
And Finally Do Everything You Can To Promote Relaxation
Create a restful environment in the evening and stick to a night-time routine. During mid-stage to advanced dementia there is advice that suggests someone with dementia shouldn’t watch TV or read a book as they can find this difficult and become frustrated; playing soft music may be a better alternative. You could even try reading to them. The bedroom should be comfortable, not too hot, not too cold and with cosy, breathable bedding.
Find more general tips for elderly parents on how to get a better nights sleep.
If you care for someone with dementia, you may want to consider a system like the CPR Guardian Smartwatch. This light and stylish watch is often preferred by elderly relatives who are used to wearing a watch every day. The CPR Guardian can pair with a carers smartphone, enabling them to find out the wearers GPS location and communicate with the wearer directly through the watch. The watch also comes with an SOS button that alerts the carer directly when pressed. It can even monitor the wearers heart rate! All of these features mean that there is always a way to keep track of your relative with dementia, make sure theyre okay, and be alerted if there is ever a problem.
Dementia And Eating Problems: Why Do Dementia Patients Stop Eating
People with dementia can have problems eating, drinking, swallowing, and chewing food. Caregivers and family members of people living with dementia need to be aware of these potential challenges when caring for them at home. There are many ways to address this problem, with some of them being medication adjustments, diet changes, or even simply giving the caregivers more time to assist them at mealtimes.
No matter what you do, it will help tremendously if the patient can be eased into accepting your solutions as something they need and want rather than something forced on them by someone else. This article discusses how caregivers can help dementia patients overcome their problems with food intake by implementing some simple strategies.
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Setting The Scene For Mealtimes
A familiar, sociable environment can help a person with dementia to feel more comfortable eating and drinking. You could try:
- turning off noisy TVs and radios, or playing some soothing, familiar music
- being flexible about meal times, avoiding times when the person is tired or distressed
- giving the person lots of time to eat, so there is no rushing
- eating with the person, if they enjoy the social side of this. It might be encouraging for them to see you eating, but bear in mind some people may be self-conscious and embarrassed to eat in company
- making sure the room is well-lit and describing the food. This might help the person recognise the food they are eating more easily
- using plain coloured plates and cups so they can see the food easily. Specially adapted cutlery is available for people with dementia
What Health Problems Can It Cause
Not getting enough to eat or drink can lead to:
- Dehydration: To make sure they get enough fluids, give them drinks that are easy to drink and they like. Try flavored water, juices, sport drinks, lemonade, or Popsicles. Itâs common for people with advanced Alzheimerâs disease to stop drinking to the point of dehydration. This is often part of the process at the end of life. If your loved one gets dehydrated often or theyâre in the advanced stages of Alzheimerâs, you should have a plan about whether to use feeding tubes or an IV.
- Weight loss: This can be a sign of other problems, but if someone doesnât eat, this is the most likely cause. If your loved one has lost more than 5 pounds in a week or 10 pounds in a month, they should see a doctor. To help them keep weight on, skip low-fat or low-calorie foods. Serve high-calorie foods, like milkshakes, protein drinks, ice cream, and smoothies. If the weight loss continues, talk to their doctor.
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When Seniors With Dementia Wont Eat
What can you do when your older adult loses interest in eating? For seniors with Alzheimers or dementia, this could be caused by a variety of factors, including loss of taste or smell, distractions, too many food choices, or having trouble with utensils.
Of course, youre trying to make sure they eat enough to maintain their health. This can make mealtime frustrating or unpleasant for both your older adult and you.
Advanced Stages Of Dementia: Chewing Or Swallowing Problems
Eating and drinking is a;complex process;that involves the control centre in the brain and strong muscles in the neck and throat. As dementia progresses, it affects these areas, which then expresses as symptoms the carer sees such as coughing or choking, clearing the throat, grimacing when swallowing, exaggerated movements of the mouth or tongue, refusal to swallow or holding food in the mouth or spitting food out.
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Where To Get Help
- Your local community health centre
- National Dementia Helpline Alzheimers Australia Tel. 1800 100 500
- Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service Tel. 1800 699 799 for 24-hour telephone advice for carers and care workers
- Aged Care Assessment Services Tel. 1300 135 090
- My Aged Care Tel. 1800 500 853
- Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinics Tel. 1300 135 090
- Carers Victoria Tel. 1800 242 636
- Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres Tel. 1800 052 222
Problems At The Table
Pouring a glass of juice into a bowl of soup, buttering the serviette or eating dessert with a knife indicate that a person with dementia is having difficulty at the dinner table.
What to try;
- Serve one course at a time and remove other distracting items from the table such as extra cutlery glasses or table decorations
- Ensure that the crockery is plain and is a different colour to the plain table cloth
- If the use of cutlery is too difficult serve finger food
- Eat with the person with dementia so that they can copy you
- Make sure that they are not rushed
- Keep noise and activities in the environment to a minimum
- Ensure there is adequate lighting
- Serve familiar food
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Is Artificial Nutrition And Hydration A Good Idea
Most health professionals now feel that a person with advanced dementia and in the end stage of their illness should not be fed by tubes or drips. This is because inserting tubes or IV drips requires hospital admission, which can be very distressing for the person. They may then pull out the tubes and drips, and the site of the tubes and drips can become infected and sore.
He was very distressed in hospital and kept pulling out his tubes he didnt understand what was happening to him and they didnt know how to help him.
Dementia Affects Brain Areas Associated With Swallowing
Inability to swallow food is termed as dysphagia. The prevalence of dysphagia among elderly can be as high as 40 percent. This percentage is even higher among people with dementia .
But why is that?
Different types of dementia eventually lead to the shrinkage of the parts of the brain that coordinate swallowing. Consequently, the patients find it extremely hard to swallow as their disease progresses.
Do Make Sure That The Dementia Patient Gets Enough Rest Food And Water
Fatigue, hunger and thirst may cause combativeness. Ensure that the person with dementia is well fed, hydrates enough, and gets adequate sleep and rest. In line with this, they should also have enough bathroom breaks. Research also shows that it may help to reduce loud noises as well as clutter in the space where the patient spends most of his/her time, as both loud noises and clutter tend to over-stimulate people with dementia.
Eat Small All Day Long
Contrary to what we believe, we do not need 3 main meals a day. Research shows that there is no major differences between 3 regular meals a day, 2 large meals a day or 5 little ones. In fact 5 little meals can help to regulate steady blood pressure which is an added bonus.
If you can only get your parent to eat small amounts, thats not a problem as long as this is at regular periods throughout the day. Its all about finding what works best for you.
Eating smaller portions can also benefit people living with dementia who have difficulty swallowing. Difficulty swallowing is a symptom of some types of dementia, including Alzheimers and Lewy Body Dementia.
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Loss Of Appetite And Dementia
- Check with the doctor to make sure that there are no treatable causes for loss of appetite, such as acute illness or depression.
- Offer meals at regular times each day.
- Allow the person to eat when hungry.
- Encourage physical activity.
- Provide balanced meals to avoid constipation.
- Offer ice-cream or milkshakes.
- Try to prepare familiar foods in familiar ways, especially foods that are favourites.
- Encourage the person to eat all or most of one food before moving on to the next some people can become confused when tastes and textures change.
- Try to make meal times simple, relaxed and calm. Be sure to allow enough time for a meal helping the person to eat can take up to an hour.
- Consult a doctor if the person with dementia experiences significant weight loss .
- Check with the doctor about vitamin supplements.
- Carers should also make sure their own diet is varied, nutritious and enjoyable.
Are There Any Exceptions
While some dementia patients eat too little, others overeat. Some dementia patients may eat too much food at a time or consume meals too often.
Its also possible for patients to demonstrate excessive eating and other related eating behavioral changes because of changes in their dietary preferences.
They may even be obsessed with certain foods.
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Do Offer Assurance Often
Many times, people with dementia may experience feelings of isolation, fear, loneliness or confusion. They may not be able to express this in the right way and thus may wander off or keep saying that they want to go back home, especially if they are in a senior living facility. This is not the time to shut them out. Its a good idea to assure them that they are safe and in a good place.
If you are close enough, provide a comforting hug every once in a while and remind them that they are in a place that has their best interest at heart. Where possible, engage in exercise or take a walk as even light physical activity may help to reduce agitation, restlessness and anxiety.
Faqs About Dementia Sleep Problems
Caring for a patient with dementia and sleep problems is hard work. When the dementia patient is not sleeping well, it is very easy to become exhausted yourself. To give the best care, the carer needs to look after themselves. In addition to the following questions that some people have asked regarding how to get dementia patients to sleep at night, you should visit our guide on caring for someone with dementia.
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Do Not Keep Correcting The Patient
People with dementia do not like it when someone keeps correcting them every time they say something that may not be right. It makes them feel bad about themselves and can make them drift out of the conversation. Discussions should be humorous and light and one should always speak slowly and clearly using simple and short sentences to capture and keep the interest of the dementia patients.
Stocking Up And Storing Food
A person with dementia might need help keeping track of what food they have at home and storing food safely. You could try:
- storing food in ways that are easy to access and eat, such as pouring cereals into clear pots or cutting cheese into cubes
- buying frozen ready meals; but be mindful that the person might need help reheating frozen foods safely. You could put labels with clear cooking instructions on the top of the meal. You could put notes reminding the person that the meals are in the freezer on the freezer door
- buying ambient temperature ready meals is another option, as these do not need to be stored in the fridge or freezer, so may be more accessible for some people
- checking the persons cupboards and disposing of anything out of date
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Why Do People With Dementia Develop Dysphagia
Dysphagia can be caused by several different factors. These include damage to the parts of the brain responsible for controlling swallowing. In the case of a person with dementia, dysphagia usually occurs progressively over time, unlike the acute dysphagia that can occur suddenly in other elderly care situations, such as if a person has a stroke.
Do Try To Be Forgiving And Patient
Do not forget that dementia is the condition that results in irrational behavior and causes dementia sufferers to act the way they do. The patients demand plenty of patience and forgiveness from the people looking after them. Have the heart to let things go instead of carrying grudges around for something that the patient may not be in control of.
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How To Help With Coordination Changes
A person with a dementia often has difficulty feeding themselves. It is important to encourage them when they are eating and drinking as it helps their independence. It also can help the swallowing process.
Things that can help include:
- cutting food up before presenting it
- only giving them the cutlery that is needed
- putting the cutlery or cup directly into their hand
- using plates and tablecloths of different colours
- making sure the table is not cluttered
- serving one course at a time
- using finger foods such as ;sandwiches, slices of fruit or vegetables and cheese
- giving gentle verbal encouragement, for example, oh this smells lovely
- using gentle physical prompts, for example, place your hand over the persons hand to;guide their food or drink to their mouth
- only as a last resort consider feeding them part or all of the meal
- many people will still be able to hold a cup after the ability to use a fork or spoon has been lost, and this should be encouraged
They Wake Up A Lot During The Night To Use The Loo And I’m Worried They May Get Lost Or Confused Should I Wake Up Too To Help Them
It is normal that older people will need to use the loo more often during the night. This can be difficult if a person also has dementia as they might forget why they’re up, where the toilet is or that they should go back to bed. Start by looking at your parents drinking and eating habits. If they are eating and drinking large amounts in the evening this will increase the need for them to visit the toilet. Limit their intake from late afternoon and enjoy a main meal at lunch. Next make the route to and from the toilet as clear as possible by using signs and plug-in nightlights. Try using pictures if it helps. It might also help to make the lights in the bathroom motion activated for when they get there. If you are still worried or you find they still get lost, it may be that you will have to help them. A monitor or bed-exit sensor will help you to wake up when you need to.
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Practical Tips To Help Someone With Dementia To Eat More
People living with;Alzheimers or dementia;often eat less than they used to. ;This can be due to medical problems associated with chewing, swallowing or digesting food.;
Sometimes people just lose interest in food. This can happen for a long list of reasons including loss of taste, the ability to smell, memory loss, and thinking they have already eaten.; Certain medications can also affect appetite.
The ability and want to eat tends to get worse as the disease progresses and ensuring someone living with dementia eats a nutritious meal, or eats enough, can become a real practical and emotional issue for the carer. We have compiled a list here of 8 practical tips for helping someone with dementia to eat more.