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Dementia and Loss of Appetite

Posted by Karen Thompson on

Are you noticing your relative with dementia no longer has the same appetite as they once did? For many persons living with dementia, they often experience a loss of appetite. As they progress on their dementia journey, this can be due to difficulties chewing and swallowing, no longer being able to express their hunger, changes in medication, disinterest in food, pain, and poor digestion.

As a care partner, it is important to recognize that these symptoms associated with dementia could be the cause of loss of appetite. To help address this issue, here are some helpful tips to ensure your relative with dementia is getting the proper nutrients. 

  • If they are facing challenges chewing and swallowing, present their food in a different way or prepare food that is easy to chew and swallow. One alternative is to purchase meal replacement drinks, such as Ensure or Boost. Perhaps mincing or blending their food will allow them to be able to swallow their food. If you do use these alternatives, it is important to speak to your doctor to ensure they are getting essential nutrients.
  • If you start noticing they are unable to voice when they are hungry, directly ask individuals and be patient with their response. Eating together can also help to ensure they are eating proper meals. This is also a great way to connect over food and maintain your relationship. 
  • Has your loved one with dementia recently been put on different medications or a different dosage? Medications can often alter appetite, either experiencing a greater appetite or loss of appetite. If your relative with dementia is no longer as hungry as before their change in medication, adjust to their new normal and ensure they are eating proper nutrients (fruits, vegetables, protein) rather than eating filler foods (e.g. chips, crackers, snacks). 
  • If your loved one is no longer interested in the food they are given, simply ask them what they feel like before preparing a meal. Sometimes food preferences can change, ensure you are listening to their choices and offer foods that are familiar to them. 
  • Sometimes persons living with dementia experience pain and discomfort and are unable to voice that they are in pain. If you begin to notice they are no longer hungry, hold their stomachs, or have fallen ill, make a doctors appointment for a checkup. Notify your physician of the symptoms they are experiencing and stay informed. 
  • Persons with dementia might also face challenges with digestion. As a care partner, it is important to monitor their washroom use if you are starting to notice changes in their appetite. Contact your physician if digestion could be the cause. Alternatively, prune juice is a great option to ensure proper gut health. Physical activity is also an important aspect for living well, maintaining appetite, and proper digestion.

If you notice changes in your loved ones appetite, it is always a good idea to contact your doctor to ensure your relative is healthy and receiving the best care and nutrients. 

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