Staying healthy

4. Eating well

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