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Feeding Strategies in Dementia

Posted in Healthy ageing

Dementia is a progressive illness of the brain and can often be associated with confusion, agitation and forgetfulness. If you are supporting or caring for someone with dementia you may have noticed that mealtimes can be particularly challenging.

This information is designed to help you understand how dementia affects someone with respect to eating and drinking and to help you manage some of these difficulties.

Examples of feeding difficulties:

You may notice that a person is becoming confused and uncoordinated. For example, the person may attempt to load food onto their knife or attempt to drink a food item.

These include refusal to open the mouth or spitting out food. This may be because the person no longer recognises the food in front of them or dislikes certain textures and tastes. This can even happen with foods that they previously liked. It may be because the person is having difficulty chewing or swallowing their food. If this is the case, check for loose-fitting dentures or painful gums or loose teeth. Remember, a person with dementia may not be able to communicate these problems to you.

Be aware of subtle signs or symptoms such as coughing after food or drinks or taking a very long time to chew and swallow foods. This may need further investigation by a speech and language therapist. Ask your GP to make a referral.

Suggestions for managing feeding difficulties:

 Examples of finger foods:

 If you are concerned about weight loss or any of the issues raised here, ask your GP to make a referral to a dietitian. You can also find a dietitian in the 'Find A Dietitian' section of our website. A dietitian can give expert, individualised advice on how to manage feeding difficulties.

 Other useful websites to visit

Created by Ciara Murphy, MINDI, October 2013

 Review date: October 2015

© 2013 Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, INDI. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a dietitian. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.













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