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Diet for Dementia Patients: Understanding the Challenge

 Social Media Team   Saturday, July 15, 2017   

A proper diet is vital to the health of a dementia patient, and with the assistance of knowledgeable staff, good nutrition can happen every day!

The problem with eating and diet

Adequate food intake is important for all people, but when it comes to diet for dementia patients, getting the right nutrition can be extremely difficult. The ultimate goal is to maintain the body weight. There are many factors at play when it comes to dementia and diet, including both mental and physical challenges. A dementia patient may be unable to recognize food, does not see the purpose of eating, has difficulty using utensils, or may be overwhelmed by too many food choices and might simply forget when we consume food. They can also have declining senses, such as taste and smell, a general decline with age, leading to a reduced appetite. As someone ages, they may also have weakened handgrip, which makes using forks and spoons more difficult. Swallowing can be difficult as well, and sometimes misplaced dentures can make chewing a meal more challenging. Dehydration is also an issue, as dementia patients usually have a reduced thirst sensation. All of these factors and more make nutrition and diet more difficult. But with the right steps and measures, quality, nutritious meals are far from impossible.

Getting to nutrition: Strategies for dementia patients

So what do professional caregivers to increase the chances of a quality diet for their patients? Using both the food and the eating environment, one can take certain steps to increase food intake and enhance nutrition. The first step is to focus on eating and concentrate on foods that the patient enjoys and can eat. Serving a calorie-rich diet is often required, as they will not eat large portions, but what counts is every bite they eat is valuable. It may be helpful and relevant to add flavor-enhancers such as honey, gravy, butter, or sauces, fats and protein. These often make food tastier and easier to eat. What is also is supportive is to serve fortified foods, such as ice cream, puddings, or oatmeal, and if someone has eating restrictions, pureed meals may be required. To provide adequate fluid is essential and will decrease the risk of dehydration which could cause difficulties in swallowing.

The setting: Create a space for eating

The food itself is essential, but it’s also important to create an environment where undistracted eating is a priority. A good setting to enhance the diet for dementia patients will have as few distractions as possible, with a simple place-setting and no center piece. Noises, such as televisions and radios, should be turned off, and people in the room should avoid loud conversations. There should also be a clear contrast in color between the plate and the food (such as white plates with dark food, and set the table with only the required utensils, usually just a fork or spoon. It’s also believed that terra cotta dishes will stimulate appetite, while blues and greens could be a barrier. Also, always make sure to have enough time for eating the meal. Because there are many steps, strategies, and measures to remember, it’s advisable to work with trained professionals like Vitae Care to enhance the diet and ensure the quality, long-term health and maintain the body weight.

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