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What Happens When A Dementia Patient Stops Eating

Things That Happen To The Body

What to do if your loved one with dementia is eating WAY TOO MANY SWEETS!

One of the things that happen is that you are depleted of oxygen and this makes circulation slow down. This also makes the skin mottle and when it is extreme, the skin becomes cold.

Difficulty in breathing or noisy breathing is also witnessed. When circulation, breathing, and heartbeat stop, you are clinically dead. The biological death actually happens a few minutes later as the brain cells die because they are deprived of oxygen.

How death feels mainly depends on the way a person dies and this affects what we know about it. There are people who die because of illness and they may not be able to say what they are feeling exactly. This is because they can be too sick or too unconscious to say anything. This means that we can only observe.

Death is personal meaning that you may experience different things. Some of the things that you may experience include:

  • You may feel as if you are dreaming
  • You may see life flash right before your eyes
  • You may still know what is happening around you
  • You may be in pain depending on whether you are sick
  • You may feel normal
  • You may feel dizzy
  • You may not feel anything and it may feel good to die that could possibly explain why some people die with a smile on their faces.

What Is Artificial Nutrition And Hydration

ANH refers to any method used to provide food and fluids to anyone who is unable to swallow or take in food through the mouth. Usually, ANH is administered through a feeding tube that passes through the nose into the stomach but may also be done through a tube that goes directly into the stomach wall. Fluid is also given intravenously or inserted under the skin subcutaneously. Sometimes ANH is difficult for the person with dementia. Forced feeding at this phase is a point for a debate in the process of care and is not recommended.

Carers’ Needs During End

Carers speak about being a husband or wife, a son, daughter or grandchild first, and then becoming a carer to that person when illness or disability occurs. This section provides advice about supporting the person living with dementia and their carers.

Becoming a carer may be an additional role that develops as part of a relationship between two people, but it doesnt replace the roles and relationships that families have lived with for many years.

Caring is what I do. He would have done the same for me if the situation were reversed.

A woman speaking about caring for her husband who has dementia.

When we start working with a family, it is important to remember that the relationship between the family carer and the person with dementia remains but with some profound changes. Physical, emotional, social and financial changes over time can generate enormously difficult feelings guilt, depression, resentment, anger, isolation and stress. As a result of these feelings, understandably, the relationship changes. For more on these sorts of issues, look at the section on Working in partnership with carers.

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Mouth Chewing And Swallowing Problems In Dementia

  • Arrange a dental check-up of gums, teeth and dentures.
  • Moisten food with gravies and sauces if a dry mouth is causing problems.
  • For chewing problems, try light pressure on the lips or under the chin, tell the person when to chew, demonstrate chewing, moisten foods or offer small bites one at a time.
  • For swallowing problems, remind the person to swallow with each bite, stroke the throat gently, check the mouth to see if food has been swallowed do not give foods that are hard to swallow, instead offer smaller bites and moisten food.
  • Consult their doctor if choking problems develop.

When Do Dementia Patients Stop Eating

Why Do Dementia Patients Stop Eating?

When a patient stops or refuses to eat, things can be very depressing for the caregiver. Drinking and eating are complex and have to do with a control center that is within the brain, which controls the muscles in the throat and neck area.

Dementia affects this part of the brain as it progresses and things like choking, coughing, grimacing as one swallows, clearing the throat, movements that are exaggerated, especially of the tongue and mouth, refusing to swallow, and spitting the food can be seen. This usually happens in the later stages of the disease.

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Alma And Silvias Story

Alma had been forgetful for years, but even after her family knew that Alzheimers disease was the cause of her forgetfulness, they never talked about what the future would bring. As time passed and the disease eroded Almas memory and ability to think and speak, she became less and less able to share her concerns and wishes with those close to her.

This made it hard for her daughter Silvia to know what Alma needed or wanted. When the doctors asked about feeding tubes or antibiotics to treat pneumonia, Silvia didnt know how to best reflect her mothers wishes. Her decisions had to be based on what she knew about her moms values, rather than on what Alma actually said she wanted.

Quality of life is an important issue when making healthcare decisions for people with dementia. For example, medicines are available that may delay or keep symptoms from becoming worse for a little while. Medicines also may help control some behavioral symptoms in people with mild-to-moderate Alzheimers disease.

However, some caregivers might not want drugs prescribed for people in the later stages of Alzheimers. They may believe that the persons quality of life is already so poor that the medicine is unlikely to make a difference. If the drug has serious side effects, they may be even more likely to decide against it.

How To Help A Dementia Patient Eat

If a dementia patient refuses to eat, its important to ensure theyre well hydrated. Dehydration is a cause of appetite loss. Its also possible for elderly patients not to be sufficiently hydrated.

Because of this, they become dehydrated quicker and easier because of their age, body changes, or medication theyre taking.

Drinking water might be too plain and met with resistance. Its useful to offer patients a soft, liquid meal such as cereal or soup instead.

Taking a look at the patients mouth will also reveal any redness or swelling that could cause a lack of interest in eating. A dental appointment could help to address any such concerns.

Some ways to encourage a dementia patients appetite include:

Also Check: What To Do If You Have Alzheimer’s

Why Do Dementia Patients Stop Talking

There are many signs that can tell you death is near for a dementia payment. Even though you may be prepared for the end, it is never easy. The ten signs that death is near include:

  • Sleeping. The patient may stop responding or may be more sleepy than usual
  • Loss of interest in fluids and food
  • Coolness: the patients legs, feet, arms, hands, ears, and nose may feel cool to touch because of the decrease in circulation
  • Change in the color of the skin because of the low circulation of blood usually called mottling
  • Rattling sounds within the throat and lungs
  • Bowel and bladder changes
  • Changing vital signs
  • Stage 2: Age Associated Memory Impairment

    Dr Olivier Piguet talks about overeating in frontotemporal dementia

    This stage features occasional lapses of memory most frequently seen in:

    • Forgetting where one has placed an object
    • Forgetting names that were once very familiar

    Oftentimes, this mild decline in memory is merely normal age-related cognitive decline, but it can also be one of the earliest signs of degenerative dementia. At this stage, signs are still virtually undetectable through clinical testing. Concern for early onset of dementia should arise with respect to other symptoms.

    Also Check: How To Definitively Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease

    How To Help Someone With Dysphagia Eat And Drink Safely

    It is easy for caregivers to grow impatient during meals as we sit and wait for each bite or sip to be swallowed. Handfeeding is one of the best approaches for those with more advanced dysphagia, but it can be especially trying. Ryba offers the following suggestions for facilitating mealtimes and promoting safe eating habits.

    Why Patients Stop Eating

    Eating and drinking involves the control center in the brain and strong muscles in the neck and throat. When Alzheimers progresses, it affects these parts. At this time, you can see symptoms such as:

    • Coughing or choking
    • Exaggerated movements of the mouth or tongue
    • Refusal to swallow
    • Holding food in the mouth or spitting it out

    In the later stages of dementia and the phase of stopping to eat develops, the need for food and drink also begins to decline. The patients body begins to adjust. Their activity reduces and they dont need as many calories.

    Read Also: When Does Dementia Typically Start

    Eating And Drinking At The End Of Life

    People with dementia can develop problems with eating, drinking and their ability to swallow at any stage of their illness, although it is most common to see this at the more advanced stages. In this section you’ll be able to explore why this happens and how you can help.

    When a person with advanced dementia takes in only a very limited amount of food and fluids or can no longer swallow safely, it can be an extremely difficult and emotional time for family and care staff as they try to work out how to best respond and care for the person with dementia. It is important to try and maintain eating and drinking, even in very small amounts, for comfort and enjoyment. Speech and language therapists can help and advise about swallowing changes at this time.

    What happens when Pete can no longer swallow? Will he just starve to death? I dont want him suffering.

    A woman speaking about her husband who has dementia.

    But Will They Die From Starvation Or Thirst

    Nutrition for Dementia Patients

    In the end stages of dementia, when this phase typically develops, the need for food and fluid intake gradually declines over time and the body has already started to adjust. Activity has typically also decreased, so the person does not need to take in as many calories. Understanding this and observing activity levels can help the caregiver see why not as much food or drink is needed. A medical professional can make observations and reassure the carer that dehydration is not a factor or take steps to help.

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    How It Affects People When Life Is Ending

    You cannot reverse renal failure and when one does not opt for dialysis, one gets confused and may not be able to move. The persons consciousness can also deteriorate quite fast.

    If the failure is complicating other illnesses, the symptoms you may get include loss of appetite, nausea, drowsiness, Itching, and fatigue, which tend to get worse.

    The failure can also make you more sensitive to certain medications and this may cause even more discomfort and side effect. At the end of life, pain medications may be administered since the patient can benefit from them.

    One may not get dialysis when they are at the end of life stage. It is common for patients to be put on some fluid restriction so that the water retention effects are minimized. However, this can be relaxed when death is imminent.

    Why Do Dementia Patients Act Childlike

    A senior who is afraid, confused, frustrated and/or unable to communicate effectively can be easily agitated. They may rely on confabulation or lies to fill the gaps in their memory, and they may demonstrate childlike behaviors such as emotional outbursts and downright noncompliance with instructions and requests.

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    How Hospice Can Help With End

    In addition to helping you in recognizing the signs of dying in the elderly with dementia, bringing in hospice care will help with the physical and emotional demands of caregiving. Nurses will be able to adjust medication and care plans as the individuals needs change. Aides can help with bathing, grooming, and other personal care. Social workers can help organize resources for the patient and family. Chaplains and bereavement specials can help the family with any emotional or spiritual needs. Additionally, family members can contact hospice at any time, and do not need to wait until it is recommended by the patient’s physician.

    To learn more about the criteria for hospice eligibility or to schedule a consultation, please contact Crossroads using the blue Help Center bar on this page for more information on how we can help provide support to individuals with dementia and their families.

    How Does Peanut Butter Detect Alzheimers

    Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD). Mum has stopped eating.

    The researchers discovered that those who had an impaired sense of smell in the left nostril had early-stage Alzheimers. They noted that the participants needed to be an average of 10 centimeters closer to the peanut butter container in order to smell it from their left nostril compared to their right nostril.

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    What To Do About Body Jerking

    Sudden twitching or jerking, known as myoclonus, is another condition that sometimes happens with Alzheimer’s. The person’s arms, legs, or whole body may jerk. This can look like a seizure, but the person doesn’t pass out. Tell the doctor right away if you see these signs. The doctor may prescribe one or more medicines to help reduce symptoms.

    Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

    Signs That Could Tell You Death Is Imminent

    There are some changes that you should be able to see when the body stops to work, as it should. This is very much a part of dying. For younger people such as teenagers and children, the process is quite similar but sometimes rather hard to predict because they can remain active and can ask questions that may be too hard to answer.

    For the elderly, however, it is rather straightforward at times since you can actually tell the changes they are experiencing. You can know its time to die a couple of months before death because an elderly person could:

    • Tend to be more sleepy than usual
    • Reduce the amount of food and drink taken
    • Stay away from people or activities that they had enjoyed previously
    • Talk less

    When the elderly person is a few weeks to their death, they may be too drained or tired that they may not be able to leave the bed. You can notice the following:

    • The elderly person may have the different wake and sleep patterns
    • They lose appetite and have no desire to drink
    • They dont get a lot of bowel movements or pee
    • They may be in more pain than usual
    • Their blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing may change
    • Their temperature may fluctuate up and down, leaving the skin pale, moist, warm, or cool
    • Their breathing could become congested due to build up at the back of the throat
    • They may look confused or they tend to be in a daze

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    How Can Dementia Affect A Person’s Appetite

    A person with dementia may lose interest in food. They may refuse to eat it or may spit it out. The person may become angry or agitated, or behave in a challenging way during mealtimes.;

    If a person isnt eating enough, it can lead to weight loss and less muscle strength. They may also feel tired and weak. This can make them frailer and less able to recover from infections or viruses.;

    Loss Of Appetite And Dementia

    What happens if my parents get dementia?: A step
    • 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.

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    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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