Sadly, dementia patients often refuse to eat and/or lack appetite, which can be a source of worry and frustration for caregivers. The risk of your loved one choking or inhaling food into their lungs is too high to force them to eat. A loved one with dementia who refuses to eat requires creative, compassionate solutions.

There is a range of factors that may cause dementia sufferers to lose their appetite, including confusion, mood, and inability to recognise hunger signals. The body shuts down due to the progression of dementia in severe-stage sufferers who lose appetite/interest in food. Here are some tips for coping with dementia-related refusal to eat:

Advice on Eating and Dementia

  • Examine whether their vision is a contributing factor. If they’re not finishing their meal, try turning their plate 180 degrees and then see if they finish.
  • Find contrasts and colours. White plates on white tablecloths may distract your loved one, while colourful dishes can aid their focus.
  • Besides water, find alternative hydration methods. Try soup or cereal as a liquid meal.
  • Your loved one’s eating habits might be caused by dental issues. If necessary, take them to the dentist if there is redness, swelling, or pain.
  • Consider heartburn, constipation, diarrhoea, and nausea as possible causes of your loved one’s refusal to eat. Inquire about any medications the patient is taking that might be causing the loss of appetite.
  • Snacks and meals should be small, frequent, and easy to eat.
  • Walking can stimulate appetites, so encourage your loved one to get some light exercise. Find ideas for exercises to help those with dementia.
  • Provide your loved one with a drink or moistened sponge so that they can stay comfortable. A drop of honey or maple syrup or small amounts of juice may also be pleasant.
  • Speak to your loved one’s doctor about the possibility of prolonging life through artificial nutrition and hydration.
  • Join caregiver support groups. They offer valuable advice from people who have been in similar situations.

Be Patient

Remember, your loved one is an adult, not a child. If your loved one refuses to eat, do not punish them; simply try another tactic and start over. It may be possible to come up with a solution that will satisfy their hunger and reduce your worries at the same time. 

For further information about the help we can give you call our experienced team at HomeCare Mellor on 01772 722 985 or 01254 689 981