Dementia and nutrition

Many people living with dementia may experience a change in their relationship with food, eating and drinking. As dementia progresses, the behavioural, emotional and physical changes that occur can make eating and drinking more difficult. Depending on the individual, these changes can result in dehydration, weight loss or weight gain.

As a carer, this can be upsetting and you may find it reassuring to understand how you can help the person you care for to eat and drink well.

There are some simple ways that you can help a person with dementia to enjoy meal times and get the best from their diet.

How can Dementia affect diet and nutrition?

As dementia progresses, a person may find it more difficult to eat and drink for many different reasons. The difficulties experienced will vary; some people with dementia will have a poor appetite or difficulty chewing and swallowing, whilst others may overeat.

Weight loss

In some cases, a person living with dementia may lose weight unintentionally due to a variety of reasons, including the following:

Poor appetite

There are many ways to stimulate a person’s appetite and the following hints and tips can help encourage a person’s interest in food:

Co-ordination problems

Make finger foods that are easy to pick up and can be eaten without using cutlery. These are ideal for people who have difficulty using cutlery or for those that are restless and like to walk around at mealtimes. Finger food ideas include the following:

Changes in food and taste preferences

As dementia progresses, a person’s likes and dislikes for different foods may change. Some people may start to enjoy unusual food combinations, such as mixing sweet and savoury flavours. As a carer, it can be difficult to understand these changes and the following tips can help:

Tips for gaining weight and increasing nutritional intake

Some people living with dementia may struggle to eat for a variety of reasons and this can lead to weight loss. There are some practical tips to help improve their nutritional intake here

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is vital for maintaining good health for us all. This includes eating foods from all the different food groups, to provide the body with all the nutrients it needs.*

What foods are important in dementia?

Studies have shown that certain combinations of nutrients may help to support healthy brain function. These nutrients include healthy fats, such as omega-3 fish oils, vitamins and minerals, which can be found in the following foods:

*To learn more about the different food groups click here

What happens if food isn’t enough?

Eating a healthy, balanced diet plays a key role in keeping the body strong. But for people living with dementia it can sometimes be hard to get enough food, which can weaken the body further.

What is medical nutrition?

Medical nutrition has been specifically designed for those who find it difficult to get adequate nutrition from a normal diet alone. Medical nutrition is a scientifically formulated liquid food that is available in the form of a drink containing energy, protein, vitamins and minerals. There are also options available for specific types of dementia, such as the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Speak to your pharmacist about these options.
For advice about medical nutrition, speak to your GP