Advice on what to do if a person with dementia won’t stop eating

A person’s eating or drinking habits may change if they have dementia. What can you do to help them to stay well?


My relative has dementia and has started to eat all the time. How can I make sure they stay healthy?


As dementia progresses, it often causes changes to a person’s eating and drinking habits, including their tastes and food preferences. 

Many people eat less than usual because of this, but others may eat more or snack more often.

It’s not unusual for the person to begin to want sweet foods more than they used to. 

Starting point 

If your relative is eating more often, it’s worth checking with their GP whether there’s a physical or medical reason causing this. 

The GP can also check whether their health is being affected in a negative way by changes in their eating habits.

For example, whether they’re putting on weight or their blood pressure or cholesterol is at an unhealthy level. 

Is your relative actually eating more than they need? If they’re eating more often but eating less each time, then the overall amount might be similar to before.

It’s important to look at whether your relative is drinking enough, as thirst can be mistaken for hunger.

Not having enough water can also lead to headaches, increased confusion, urinary tract infections and constipation.

What else is going on? 

If there isn’t something physical behind the changes in your relative’s eating habits, it’s useful to think about other reasons. 

Sometimes we eat when we’re bored or we need comfort, and a person’s dementia might make them forget they’ve already eaten. 

Was there a time in their earlier life when they worried about where their next meal was coming from? If so, this might make them feel they need to eat as much as possible while they can.

Changes to routine can also be confusing.

If your relative has recently moved home or their circumstances have changed in other ways, they may be confused about when mealtimes are.

This might cause them to overeat or seek food more often than usual.

Our dementia advisers are here for you.

How can you help? 

Ways to support a person with dementia who’s overeating could include substituting high calorie foods with lower calorie versions.

If your relative’s eating more than usual, can you make sure they have healthy foods to hand, such as salads, fruit and vegetables? 

Speak to the GP before making any major changes to diet – an excess of otherwise healthy foods, like fruit, can still cause problems with digestion or teeth

If the change in your relative’s eating habits isn’t having a negative impact on their health, think about whether it really is a problem.

Changes in behaviour aren’t always cause for concern, even though it can be upsetting to see your relative do things that are out of character. 

Your questions

Do you have a question you’d like our experts to answer in a future article? Email [email protected]


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Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer's Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer's Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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