Eating well with dementia

Eating too little or missing out on essential nutrients will reduce resistance to illness and can make someone with dementia feel more confused.

Eating well

If someone refuses to eat a balanced diet, the GP may suggest alternatives, or may prescribe vitamins or supplements.

  • Eating fatty, sugary foods can cause considerable weight gain, leading to further health problems. Eating sugary foods can cause peaks and troughs in energy levels, making mood swings worse.
  • If someone with dementia is eating so much that they feel uncomfortable, those around them may tactfully need to limit the amount of food available they eat, or offer low-calorie or healthy alternatives, depending on which is appropriate.
  • If someone with dementia forgets to eat, they may need to be accompanied at mealtimes and encouraged to eat. Having ready-made meals delivered to the home ('meals on wheels') won't help if the person forgets to eat them.
  • If a person is struggling to use cutlery to eat, offer foods that can be eaten without a knife and fork, ie finger foods.
  • It is very important to drink enough fluids. Dehydration is a health risk and can increase confusion in someone with dementia. Older people should drink about 1.6 litres or six to seven glasses a day.

Tackling constipation

This is a common problem among older people and those who are less physically active. Constipation can cause pain and discomfort, and can also make the person more confused. If problems persist, consult the GP. Try to avoid the need to use laxatives by taking steps to prevent constipation from occurring in the first place. You can help to prevent constipation by:

  • providing plenty of foods that are high in fibre, such as wholegrain cereals, wholemeal bread, fruit and vegetables
  • providing fibre supplements (available from health food stores and on prescription)
  • offering plenty of liquid
  • encouraging regular exercise.