Dining With Dementia

Dementia comes with its obstacles; bathing, walking, household chores and others, but no one would think about eating. As Dementia and Alzheimer’s progress the mobility required during meal time slowly slips away. The ability to hold a fork, pass the potatoes and chew food may also diminish.

A person with dementia may refuse to eat food or may spit food out. This may be because they dislike the food, are trying to communicate about the food being too hot, or being unsure what to do with the food. The person with dementia may become angry or agitated or exhibit challenging behaviour during mealtimes. This can happen for a variety of reasons; such as frustration at any difficulties they are having, feeling rushed, or even the environment they are in. They may not want to accept assistance with eating.

Try not to rush the person with dementia, and help them maintain as much independence as possible. If a person is agitated or distressed, do not put pressure on them to eat or drink. Wait until the person is calm and less anxious.

Not only will the fine motor skills diminish, but the ability to sense temperature diminishes along with swallowing (called dysphagia).  If your loved one is having difficulty with swallowing, a referral to a speech and language therapist can help. Some problems can include holding food in the mouth, continuous chewing, and leaving harder-to-chew foods (eg hard vegetables) on the plate. Be aware, issues such as weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration can also be consequences of swallowing difficulties.

To learn more, visit http://alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=149

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