Ageing Well: Nutrition for Elderly with Dementia

Posted on23 Nov 2021
In Singapore, around 1 in 10 people aged 60 year old and above suffer from dementia. The risk of developing dementia increases with age. People who have experienced stroke are also at a higher risk of dementia.
 
There are 3 general stages of dementia: early, moderate and advanced. People with early-mild dementia are still able to live independently though they may experience difficulties with memories and concentration. They may occasionally forget everyday tasks and forget to eat or drink. People with moderate dementia will require more help with daily activities. They become more moody and may refuse to eat, drink or take showers. They may have difficulties with sleeping and may wander out of their homes. Elderly with advanced dementia will become totally reliant on caregiver for assistance with daily activities. They may have extensive loss of control of their muscles and have difficulties with communication, eating and drinking.
 
For elderly with dementia, the visual appeal of foods plays an important role to attract their interest in consuming the foods. Caregivers have to prepare foods with bright colours and strong aroma to stimulate their appetite. The flavour and aroma of foods are important to attract the elderly to start trying the foods. It is important that the caregiver pays attention to the personal preferences of the elderly, and present foods which the elderly is receptive to and likes to consume.
 

Examples of Colourful Foods:

  • Carrots
  • Pumpkins
  • Broccoli
  • Green Peas
  • Sweet Corn
  • Capsicums

Examples of Flavour Enhancer:

  • Chilli
  • Lime
  • Lemon
  • Curry Powder
  • Pepper 
  • Sesame  

 
Snacks & Liquid Intake

People with dementia have difficulties understanding the need to eat. In some cases, they may refuse foods, play with foods or throw tantrums. Some may not be able to cope with the three regular meals a day and can only manage a few spoonfuls of foods during meal times. It is important for caregivers to be flexible in providing the elderly with small, frequent snacks.
 
Great snacks options include GentleFoods' Chwee Kueh, Ang Ku Kueh and Chee Cheong Fun. They can be served in small, bite-sized portions. To increase overall fluid intake, fruit puree and dessert soups are also great alternatives for dementia patients with difficulties maintaining a regular drinking habit. 
 

High Calorie & High Protein Snacks

It is very important to monitor the weight of the elderly with dementia whom you are taking care of. If they are consistently losing weight, there is a risk of them losing their muscle mass and strength, causing them to become weaker. Remember to include high calorie and high protein snacks like milk, cheese, yoghurt, and custard. You can add protein powder to oats or soups to boost protein intake.
 
To further increase and optimize the nutritional intake of people with dementia, they can be provided nutritional supplement drinks with higher calorie and protein intake. The receptiveness to these nutritional supplement drinks will depend on the individual preferences and condition.
 
If required, you may wish to visit a dietitian for specific advice.
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