Food and water give us the energy and nutrients our bodies need to thrive — so it can be confusing and stressful when a loved one with dementia stops eating as much or at all.
It’s tough to see this happen, but know that this is a natural part of dementia.
See, we’re used to eating without thinking much about it. However, it’s a complex process neurologically speaking, and dementia impacts parts of the brain and muscles involved in the process.
As a result, someone with dementia may cough, choke, and work harder, in general, to chew and swallow food than others.
That said, at this stage of the disease, the body slowly adjusts to the lower food and drink intake, so they aren’t necessarily in immediate danger of starvation and dehydration.
But they still do need to eat and drink, although it may take some extra effort on the caregiver’s part. Here are some tips to make it easier.
1. Rule Out Physical Issues
Before anything else, rule out physical issues like dental problems, medications that may impact appetite, or infections. Sometimes, the issue is pain or discomfort from these causes, yet the person with dementia may not be able to elaborate.
2. Change the Foods and Drinks
Some foods and drinks are harder to consume than others. Hard and chewy foods take extra effort to eat, and someone with dementia may not have the ability to chew and swallow these foods with the muscles involved.
To fix this, switch to softer, easier foods (that are still flavorful) to make it easier on the patient as they eat. Avoid stringy foods (like string cheese) or anything that’s spicy. Refraining from fizzy drinks may also be a good idea.
3. Use Smaller Utensils and Different Drinkware
It may not seem like a big difference, but smaller utensils can be easier to manipulate with the hands than regular-sized utensils. It also encourages your loved one to take smaller bites, reducing the risk of choking on too big a bite of food.
Also, consider getting some specially designed drinkware to make drinking a little bit easier.
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