28th January 2016 – Practical food tips to keep people with dementia healthy

Posted on January 29, 2016 by AireAdmin

Dietician Louise Nash has designed some new resources to help people with dementia overcome eating and drinking problems which are being used throughout the country.

The information sheets have been sent out to local care homes throughout the Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven district and have proved popular with dieticians in other parts of the country who have requested them to share with their patients and their carers.

Louise, a member of the frail elderly pathway team based at Airedale Hospital, shared the practical tips and advice with her colleagues in the British Dietetics Association, health professionals who work in the community and teams who provide extra support to patients at home after they have been discharged from hospital.

Many older people or those with dementia are at greater risk of malnutrition which can result in falls, infections and being admitted to hospital. These leaflets aim to prevent people with dementia from becoming malnourished and requiring hospital treatment.

Louise, from Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Eating nourishing food and drinking regularly is so important for helping people get well and keeping someone healthy.

“Often people with dementia experience changes in their dietary behaviour, their tastes in food may change to preferring salty, spicy or sweet food or they may just forget to eat or drink or forget that they have just eaten. There can also be practical problems such as people lose the ability to eat independently, prepare food or use cutlery; medications can have side effects such as stomach cramps or feeling sick;

they may develop difficulty in swallowing or not want to drink leading to dehydration resulting in urinary infections or they could develop a tendency to pace and wander burning off a lot of energy and calories.”

“Their families may not realise these changes in behaviour are caused by dementia and eating and drinking worries can create stress in relationships.”

Louise has developed a series of information sheets including ‘Eating well with a small appetite’, ‘Finger foods’ and ‘Eating and drinking with dementia’ which are available by visiting http://www.airedale-trust.nhs.uk/services/dietetics/leaflets-for-patients-with-dementia/

A few practical tips for carers of people with dementia are:

  • Try regular snacks and small meals rather than set mealtimes. Finger foods are sometimes preferred
  • Presentation should be attractive and colourful, Avoid serving white food on a white plate. Don’t overload the plate.
  • Avoid making food and drinks too hot
  • Calm, quiet music can reduce agitation – avoid distractions, for example, TV or loud music
  • Meals should be relaxed and unhurried and served where the person with dementia feels comfortable
  • Try different flavours, colours and smells. The aroma of cooking can stimulate appetite.