Tricks to stimulate appetite for people living with dementia

Weight loss is one of the potential symptoms experienced by people living with dementia and there are a number of strategies carers can take to encourage their loved ones to eat. As well as ensuring the environment is free of distractions at mealtimes and preparing finger foods, some other simple tips and tricks can stimulate the appetite.

Employing these tactics should help to ensure those living with dementia have a balanced diet and get the nutrients they require. While younger people are encouraged to watch their calorie intake, the elderly often need more to prevent them from losing weight.

Small and often

Firstly, don’t put too much on the plate, as large portions can be daunting and prevent your loved one from knowing where to start. Serve smaller meals regularly to allow their appetite to develop from the sight and smell of food.

Maintain the temperature

People living with dementia can often eat slowly and meals designed to be enjoyed hot can become unappealing over time. Half-size portions are a good way to make sure there’s not a lot of cold food left on the plate.

Invite smells into the dining space

The smell of food can spark a natural process in the body to prepare it for eating and this remains in people living with dementia. Don’t turn on the extractor fan when cooking, open the door to the kitchen and warm foods like bread in the oven to release the aroma.

Make it colourful

It’s always been said that we eat with the eyes and putting a wide selection of colours onto a plate helps to make food look tempting. It’s also likely to ensure there’s many different nutrients on offer.

Offer a variety of foods

While giving your loved ones their favourite foods seems like a sensible way to encourage them to eat, their preferences may change as their dementia progresses. Offering various different foods can well pique their interest even if they didn’t before.

Entice them with sweet foods

The usual rules of eating savoury foods over sweet alternatives don’t need to apply to those living with dementia. Serve dessert even if they haven’t consumed their main course and encourage your loved one to eat whatever it is they fancy.

Tempt them with a snack

Dementia can sometimes lead to individuals not recognising when they’re hungry and thirsty. Put a snack in easy reach if they say they’re not hungry and see if it tempts them to eat. Employ this tactic half an hour prior to a meal and it may stimulate their appetite enough to eat more.

Engage them in preparing food

Cooking food together can be a nice social activity that piques their interest in the dishes you’re creating. Invoke memories of meals you’ve shared together or foods from their childhood to help build enthusiasm for it.

Eat together

Seeing you eat can be a good way for a person living with dementia to realise they want to as well. Human behaviour often makes us desire what somebody else has, so sitting opposite them with the same food can be an effective form of gentle encouragement.

Offer midnight snacks

Encouraging elderly people to eat doesn’t need to be on a schedule, so if they wake in the night, that could be a good time to take on extra sustenance. A soothing milkshake or warm milk could also help them to get back to sleep.

More support and advice is available for those living with dementia and their carers, and can be found here.

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