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Healthy nutrition and dementia

The nutritional needs of a person with dementia are often the same as those of other people their age. If they are very physically active, maybe from pacing, they may need larger amounts of food to make sure they don’t lose too much weight. If they are inactive, they may need less food.

If they don't eat enough or they eat unhealthy food, they can become susceptible to other illnesses. People with dementia can become more confused if they get ill.

Common problems for people with dementia include:

  • not recognising foods
  • forgetting what food they like
  • refusing or spitting out food
  • resisting being fed
  • asking for strange food combinations.

This behaviour is usually due to confusion or a sore mouth because of dental problems rather than the person wanting to be difficult.

If you care for someone who has dementia, try to stay calm and to accommodate any behaviour changes. If you feel stressed at mealtimes, the person you care for will probably be stressed too. Make sure you have plenty of time for meals so you can deal with any problems that arise.

You can discuss any concerns you have about the person’s diet or their eating behaviour with their doctor. If you think they have dental problems, then talk to their dentist. You can also contact a local carers' group to speak to other people who may have experienced similar difficulties.

Last reviewed: February 2017

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