What Can You Do When Dementia Takes Away the Desire to Eat?

21 Apr 2023 | Dementia Care

Dementia is a progressive disorder that affects cognitive functions, such as memory, language, and decision-making abilities. As the condition advances, people with dementia often lose their appetite and may stop eating altogether. This can be distressing for both the individual and their loved ones. Here we discuss why this happens and what can be done to ensure the health and well-being of those with dementia.

Why do people with dementia stop eating?

One of the primary reasons people with dementia stop eating is due to changes in their brains that affect their ability to recognise hunger and thirst. As a result, they may not feel hungry or thirsty, even when dehydrated or malnourished. Additionally, dementia can cause difficulty with chewing and swallowing, making eating painful or uncomfortable. This can lead to an aversion to food and cause a person to refuse meals altogether.

Another factor that may contribute to their loss of appetite is depression. Depression is commonly seen in people with dementia and can significantly impact their mood, motivation, and desire to eat. Therefore, it is essential to recognise the signs of depression in those with dementia and seek appropriate treatment to address this issue.

In some cases, the environment where the person lives can also impact their appetite. For example, if they are in an unfamiliar setting or surrounded by noise and distractions, they may feel anxious or overwhelmed, leading to a lack of interest in food. Providing a calm, familiar environment can help alleviate these issues and encourage them to eat.

When a person with dementia stops eating, it can have severe consequences for their health. Malnutrition can lead to weakness, fatigue, and a weakened immune system, increasing the risk of infections and other health issues. Dehydration can also be a significant concern and can lead to confusion, urinary tract infections, and kidney problems. If left unaddressed, these issues can ultimately impact the person’s quality of life and may even shorten their lifespan.

How to encourage people with dementia to eat

So, what can be done to help those with dementia who have stopped eating? The first step is to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause of the loss of appetite. Then, they can perform a thorough assessment and provide appropriate treatment or interventions, such as medication or dietary changes.

In some cases, it may be necessary to offer smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day or to modify the texture of food to make it easier to chew and swallow. Providing a variety of foods that are familiar and appealing to the individual can also help stimulate their appetite. Encouraging physical activity can also help increase the desire to eat and improve overall health.

It is also essential to provide emotional support and reassurance to everyone involved, both the dementia sufferer and their loved ones. Changes in appetite and eating patterns can be distressing, and it is essential to address any concerns or fears they may have. Engaging in activities that promote socialisation, such as sharing meals with family and friends, can also help improve mood and promote healthy eating habits.

How Eximius can help

Seeking the help of healthcare professionals, providing a comfortable environment, offering frequent small meals, and emotional support can all help promote healthy eating habits and improve the quality of life for those with dementia.

At Eximius, we can provide personalised and compassionate live-in care for your loved one with dementia. If you’d like to know more about how we can support you and your loved one at home, get in touch here.

Further reading

5 Tips To Help People With Dementia Sleep Better

Dementia And Hallucinations – What You Need To Know

What happens in the early stages of dementia?

Making the Tough Call: When Is It No Longer Safe For Dementia Patients To Stay At Home