Eating well with Dementia

People living with dementia can often experience problems eating and drinking. This may be due to:

  • difficulty using cutlery
  • being distracted
  • problems recognising food
  • changes in taste

It is important to eat well for good health. There are many ways family, friends, and carers of people with dementia can help.

Appetite
Being active
Distractions
Hydration
Taste changes
Chewing difficulties
Weight gain
Weight loss


Lacking appetite

You may find a person with dementia will eat less than they used to. This may be due to a loss of appetite, or they may have forgotten whether they have eaten or not. This can lead to weight loss but a little support can help them eat better.

How can you help?

  • Offer small meals and snacks throughout the day; a large serving might be overwhelming
  • Make the most of nourishing drinks such as milky hot chocolate, milky coffee, or milkshakes

How can HILS help?

  • Having our meals delivered and plated can act as a friendly reminder to eat
  • We offer higher energy meals with more calories for people with a small appetite
  • Read our advice on Achieving Healthy Weight Gain for some useful tips
  • Discover our list of delicious milky drink recipes

Staying active

When someone has not been very active they may not feel hungry.

How can you help?

  • Encouraging them to do gentle exercise
  • Going on short walks can help with appetite and improve their general mood

How can HILS help?

  • We run dementia clubs where people with mild to moderate dementia can spend a day taking part in fun activities and have a nutritious meal with us.

Getting distracted:

Minimising distractions during meal times can help people concentrate on their meals.

How can you help?

  • Avoid patterned plates. Instead, opt for plain crockery in a contrasting colour to the table. This can help the person eating focus on their meals.
  • Choose a time in the day when they are most alert and make sure the person is sitting upright when they’re eating

How can HILS help?

  • Our Community Team delivery staff can plate meals, arrange cutlery, and open lids for our clients - let us know if you think this may be helpful.

Keeping Hydrated

Drinking plenty is important for everyone.

How can HILS help?

  • We give all our clients a light-weight water jug that holds 1.5 litres, which is a perfect size for the fridge. They should aim to drink this amount each day. If they don’t have a free jug, please call your local Support Team. We can also send out a poster with Hydration top tips.

Taste changes

Sometimes people with dementia may experience taste changes. Many people find they prefer sweeter foods. It is helpful to know what foods they like and dislike, and what time they are most likely to eat better. If their eating habits become very restrictive, it is worth speaking to their GP.

How can you help?

  • Try offering different types of foods, even ones they have never tried before
  • Always offer pudding even if they haven’t finished their main meal. It is more important that they are eating something
  • Try adding sweet chutneys to savoury meals

How can HILS help?

  • If we are informed about meals that are particularly liked or disliked, we can personalise the menu to meet their needs.

Chewing difficulties and other physical problems

Some people may develop difficulties with chewing, swallowing or holding cutlery.

How can you help?

  • Try offering finger foods which do not require cutlery. For example; sandwiches, small pizza slices, fruit, or muffins.
  • Specialist cutlery, plates and other utensils are widely available. Call HertsHelp on 0300 123 4044 to discuss your needs.

How can HILS help?

  • If a health professional has recommended a specific textured meal, we can provide a range of modified textured meals. Please ask your local Support Team.
  • We offer tea and breakfast menus which include finger foods such as sandwiches
  • For more information on this topic, click here

Unwanted weight gain

Whilst living with dementia, some people may end up gaining weight. If they like sweet foods, fruit (fresh, tinned, or stewed) may be a healthy option. If you are concerned about someone’s weight, contact their GP for advice. Click here for more information on achieving healthy weight loss.


Unintentional weight loss

Please get in contact with us if you:

  • feel a person with dementia is struggling to maintain their weight or losing weight
  • have any particular concerns about dementia and diet
  • have questions about the options on the menu

You may also find our Achieving Healthy Weight Gain webpage helpful.


Are you a family member or friend who cares for someone with dementia?

Find out about the support available in your area by calling HertsHelp on: 0300 1234 044


Eating well with Dementia (PDF)

This resource has been compiled using available current evidence and has been approved by a team of dietitians and nutritionists. The information is for general use and should not replace individual tailored advice given by a healthcare professional.

For further information, please contact your local Support Team or contact our Nutrition & Wellbeing Team directly here.

If you are a health or social care professional and require leaflets for your team or clients, then please contact us