If you are a caregiver for an individual with Alzheimer's disease or another related form of Dementia, it is common for their appetite to slowly weaken as their disease progresses. Let's take a closer look at the connection between dementia and appetite, including potential causes and solutions.
What's the Connection Between Dementia and Appetite?
Eating and drinking are both very complex processes that require the simultaneous use of strong muscles in the throat and neck as well as the control center in the brain. As Alzheimer's disease or related forms of dementia progresses, the disease affects these areas, which may be expressed as choking or coughing when eating. This complication could also appear to the caregiver as:
Additional Reasons Someone with Dementia Might Lose Their Appetite
In addition to the progression of the disease, your loved one may not be eating because of the following potential factors.
If your loved one is in pain, it can make eating much more uncomfortable. The source of the pain could be tender teeth, complications with dentures, or sore gums. In these cases, regular mouth checks, as well as oral hygiene, are very important and could lead to a solution for the underlying problem causing your loved one to refuse foods or liquids.
Depression is very common among diagnosed individuals, and loss of appetite could be a sign of depression. There are several effective treatments for those suffering from depression, including different therapies and medication. If you suspect your loved one is suffering from depression, make sure to bring it up with their physician, who can provide expert recommendations.
If your loved one with dementia has complications communicating, they may attempt to communicate their needs and wants through simply not eating. For example, if they don't like the food you're giving them, they can hold food in their mouth or refuse to eat. If you suspect this is the cause, using prompts, pictures and offering them a choice of different foods may help.
If your loved one is fatigued, it can cause them to not eat — particularly giving up halfway through the meal. Fatigue can also cause other difficulties such as coordination complications and concentration problems. It's vital to be aware of this connection and encourage your loved one to eat when they are most alert.
Constipation is a very common problem for those living with dementia. It is common for constipation to cause an individual to feel nauseous and/or bloated, which may result in a reduced desire to eat. However, you can remedy this problem by encouraging your loved one to eat fiber-rich foods, drink plenty of fluids, and take other steps to prevent constipation.
Lack of Physical Activity
If your loved one isn't very active physically during the day, they may simply not be hungry. Encouraging them to participate in appropriate physical activities can help increase their appetite as well as improve their overall wellbeing. The Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center offers stage-specific day programs that includes appropriate physical activities on a daily-basis.
Tips to Improve the Appetite of Your Diagnosed Loved One
There are a range of different ways to improve your loved one's interest in food and their appetite. Fortunately, you already have a head start – knowing your loved one’s likes and dislikes can be a huge help in offering what will make them salivate! Here are a few tips and ideas that may help:
Make drinking and eating an opportunity for social stimulation. Taking the time to talk about different foods, for example, from your loved one's childhood, may encourage an appetite.
Anytime your loved one refuses to eat, try again later. If this continues, make sure to speak to their physician about your concerns.
Contact Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center
At Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center, we offer a full range of innovative day programs designed to help your loved one with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia remain active and engaged throughout the day. Our state-of-the-art center focuses on what diagnosed individuals can still do, happily and productively, and not on what they can no longer do. All of our programs are designed to be stage specific, such as:
Contact Long Island Alzheimer's and Dementia Center today to learn more about our services and how we can help those impacted by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.