As dementia progresses, a person may lose weight and suffer from undernutrition due to reduced appetite, declining cognitive function and behavioural changes.
Eating a balanced diet and drinking sufficient fluids are important to maintain physical and mental well-being. Any physical illness can make a difference to a person’s ability to cope. It may also make them confused or forgetful.
Today, there has been no clear and consistent information on dietary factors that may increase or decrease the risk for the onset of dementia. However, adopting a Mediterranean diet may lower the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. This means eating higher proportions of grains, fruits, fish and vegetables.
Eating a well-balanced nutritious diet is important for overall health.
The key to the ideal meal for seniors or persons living with dementia is not necessarily providing a special diet, but providing variety, balance and moderation. As they tend to eat less, they will require more vitamins and minerals to support their diets.
The fluid requirements for seniors are similar to younger adults’. Seniors, however, tend to drink less than what their bodies need for a number of reasons:
• With age, the body loses its ability to detect thirst.
• Some seniors also suffer from poor memory, immobility, or illness — all of which can result in decreased fluid intake.
• In addition, certain medications can also interfere with feelings of hydration and/or the thirst mechanism.
Dehydration can be a serious health problem in seniors as it can be associated with other illnesses. It is associated with increased risk of falls, urinary tract infections, dental disease, bronchopulmonary disorders (i.e. respiratory disorders), kidney stones, cancer, constipation, and impaired cognitive function.
Prevent dehydration by providing a person living with dementia with adequate fluids throughout the day.
Tips to increase fluid intake:
• Offer water frequently throughout the day and at mealtimes.
• Offer help to those who cannot drink independently.
• Offer barley, milk, soy milk, tea, coffee, juice, juicy fruits and soups for variety.