An estimated 10%-15% of people with dementia experience a decrease in their food and drink consumption at some point while they have the condition. If someone with late-stage dementia is not eating, it is likely a sign of one or more underlying problems.
Appetite loss in dementia patients may result from another health condition, lack of physical activity, or the inability to recognize food as food. If your loved one is a dementia patient who is not eating, view our tips to learn more about the causes of appetite loss in people with late-stage dementia.
Why Do Late-Stage Dementia Patients Lose Their Appetite?
Many late-stage dementia patients may experience a decrease in or complete loss of appetite because they are suffering from one or more of the following problems:
- A new or worsening health condition
- Depression or anxiety
- Pain—specifically in the teeth or gums
- Side effects from medication
- Changes in where, how, and from whom they receive food
- Inability to recognize food as something to eat
- Lack of physical activity
How to Help
If your loved one with late-stage dementia is not eating or experiences a decrease in or loss of appetite, there are practical things you can do to help try to restore it to a healthy level. Take a look at the suggestions below:
Assist With Eating & Drinking
- Have them sit in an upright position during and after meals.
- If they have trouble recognizing food as something to eat, have them smell and/or touch it first. This may help them recognize what it is. Also, keep any non-edible items out of their reach.
- Is your family member experiencing mouth irritation? Take your loved one to the dentist to eliminate the discomfort. Try to ensure that they brush their teeth twice daily. If your loved one with late-stage dementia is not eating, improving their oral health can eliminate irritation and increase food consumption
- Taking these steps will promote oral health and prevent irritation.
- Offer healthy, nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein.
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Encourage an Appetite Increase
- Tailor meal planning to the individual person with dementia, as everyone responds to food differently.
- Provide yummy smelling and looking foods to increase its appeal.
- Serve mostly soft foods to a dementia patient that is not eating. In addition, cut up solid foods into smaller bites so it’s easier to chew. Serve just a few food options in small portions at each meal so they don’t get overwhelmed with choices.
- Have them exercise as regularly as possible. Physical activity increases appetite.
- Eating meals with them may encourage them to copy your actions.
- Keep a consistent meal schedule, and offer their biggest meal when they’re the hungriest and most alert. Sticking to an eating schedule will encourage a regular, increased appetite.
- Kindly remind them what each food item is and to eat throughout the day. Don’t rush or pressure them.
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When to Seek Professional Medical Care
If a late-stage dementia patient isn’t eating, you might need to seek professional medical care. If your loved one experiences any of the following complications, contact a doctor:
- They struggle to swallow or open their mouths at all.
- They are showing signs of severe dehydration.
- They experience significant weight loss within a short time period.
Our Resident-Centered Approach to Dementia Care
Terra Vista is an innovative dementia care assisted living community in Oakbrook Terrace, IL that provides customized dementia care for each resident. We know the challenges of caring for a loved one with dementia, which is why our dementia care experts are passionate about assisting you and your loved ones every step of the way. The staff at our community offer reliable memory care services that are designed to help you care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. To become familiar with the advantages of transitioning a loved one into our Alzheimer’s care assisted living facility and community, give our team of memory care specialists a call by phone at (630) 534-0886 to receive assistance.