Helping Those with Dementia at Mealtime

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cooking-photo-200x30013.jpgThere are many challenges associated with dementia, including problems with getting sufficient nutritional and dietary intake. For various reasons, people with dementia may not eat and drink as much as they need to in order to avoid ill health.

Through the years, various interventions have been developed to try to address this issue. A recent BMC Geriatrics study, “Effectiveness of intervention to indirectly support food and drink intake in people with dementia: Eating and Drinking Well IN dementia (EDWINA) systematic review,​” takes a look at 43 interventions that have been reported on in various studies.

Although the report concluded that there is not enough evidence to conclusively recommend certain of these methods over others, the scientists did feel that these interventions offer a range of options which caregivers may wish to try with patients with dementia.

The researchers also felt that many factors can influence the success with which people with dementia eat and drink. A mix of factors, such as eating meals with their caregivers, having family members or friends eating with them, extending the time allotted for eating, creating a soothing atmosphere via the use of appropriate music, and keeping appropriate snacks available and easy to get to throughout the day can have an impact on how well people with dementia do in meeting their nutritional needs.

For Home Caregivers

What this means for many home caregivers is that making meals a more social occasion may be beneficial; however, because every person is different, and because certain social situations may exacerbate anxiety in some people with dementia, it requires consideration in planning. For example, some people may be more inclined to feel more comfortable and more easily able to consume food and drink in a setting with just a caregiver, some relaxing music, and a stream of conversation along familiar topics. Others may respond more readily to dinner with several people present, or perhaps one in which a young member of the family is involved. For others, being involved in “lending a hand” to prepare the food or set the table may be a help in making them feel more relaxed at dinner.

Individualized attention can help create a situation where a person with dementia is more likely to succeed at the dinner table. Reaching out to doctors, other caregivers, and online resources may help caregivers identify helpful approaches to try if their efforts have so far not borne fruit.

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