Other health issues for people with dementia

Looking after foot health, bone health, and dental health are all important aspects when caring for someone living with dementia.

Foot care

Healthy feet are essential if the person with dementia is to remain mobile and active. The following tips should help.

  • Make sure the person is wearing well-fitting shoes - although slippers are comfortable, they should not be worn for more than a few hours at a time, as they don't offer enough support.
  • Address problems such as corns or ingrown toenails by consulting a chiropodist registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (see 'Other useful organisations'). Make sure the person's feet are kept clean and dry, with toenails cut short. A chiropodist can help with cutting toenails if you find it difficult.
  • Contact the GP in case of other problems - for example, if any part of the foot becomes swollen or painful, or if the skin changes colour.

Bone health

It's very important for people with dementia to keep their bones as healthy as possible. This is because people with dementia are at risk of falls, and bone health makes a big difference to the effect of a fall.

Calcium and vitamin D are important for maintaining strong bones. Vitamin D deficiency is common in the UK, particularly in older people. The Department of Health recommends that people over the age of 65 take vitamin D supplements.

Good sources of calcium include milk, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, tofu and yoghurt. Vitamin D can be found in eggs and oily fish, but most vitamin D is made in the skin in response to sunlight.

The recommended daily intake of calcium is 700mg, which is the amount found in about one pint of milk. About 20 minutes of sunlight exposure (without sunscreen) every day throughout the summer is thought to provide a person with enough vitamin D for the whole year.

Healthy teeth and gums

It is important that a person with dementia has regular dental check-ups to make sure there are no problems with their teeth, gums or dentures. Any pain or discomfort will cause distress and may lead to difficulties with eating and drinking.

If you notice that someone is having problems, such as swollen gums, ulcers, broken teeth or missing fillings, let the dentist know immediately. It can help to explain at the dentist's that the patient has dementia. Encourage or help the person to follow the dentist's instructions, such as brushing and flossing their teeth, and cleaning their dentures regularly.