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Written by Helen Chu, MS RDN, US Registered Dietitian

Eating and drinking well are important for staying healthy, especially for people with dementia. As the disease such as Alzheimer Parkinson progresses, there may be some changes in person’s eating habits and ability to eat. The changes in taste, ability to chew and swallow can lead to inadequate intake, weight loss and put them at risk of dehydration, malnutrition.
  
Common reasons for inadequate intake:
  • Loss of appetite - a medication side effect, fatigue, pain can result in appetite changes 
  • Sensory changes - start to lose the sense of smell and taste
  • Chewing, swallowing problems
  • Poor coordination, to move food to mouth or use eating utensils
  • Mouth problems: ill-fitting dentures, sore gum, dry mouth
 
Strategies to help the person to improve intake:
  1. Give it some flavour
When food is bland, mushy is unappealing.  Food taste may change try extra seasoning or stronger flavour to entice eating. Perk up the flavour with herb, spices – garlic, ginger, onion, pepper, lemon.  Adding a pinch of salt sugar, soy sauce or spices is acceptable.
  1. Change in eating
There may be a change in food likes/dislikes, these preferences may be very different than before.
Offer new food, beverages to identify new preferences.
  1. Look for opportunities to encourage the person to eat or drink e.g. well rested, less tired
  1. Finger foods
Try finger food, that can be picked up by hand. The food will be easier to eat when coordination or using utensils- chopsticks, spoon, become difficult.   Finger food not only help a person to eat independently but also to maintain dignity.
 
Examples of finger foods:   
banana slices, orange sections, dried prunes, cut in quarters - hard board egg, sandwiches, chicken/beef patties, cut in strips roast pork, fish sticks, white/sweet potato wedges
  1. Frequent small meals, snacks, and fluids. 
Offer small portions at meal times, snacks and fluids throughout the day.  Between meals, encourage 8-10 cups fluids -water juice tea, water, milkshake   
 

Chewing or swallowing problems
If senior show signs and symptoms of chewing/ swallowing difficulties, obtain Speech therapist evaluation for the appropriate food texture and liquid consistencies.
 
  1. Moist /soft textured food - 
If a person with difficulty chewing, due to missing teeth, sore gums, ill-fitting denture, serve soft textures food.

Tips :
  • Serve cut up, minced moist food that requires less chewing.  Add extra gravy, sauces will make swallowing easier
        2.  Puree Food
If puree food is not the correct consistency (too thick or runny), bland, unappetizing, then intake will decline as people are reluctant to eat the food

Tips: 
  • Improve the flavour with spices and herbs
  • Add margarine, or gravy, sauces, chicken broth can add flavour to meat, vegetables
  • Blend meat/vegetable with Baby food for extra flavour
  • Potato flake s, cream soup - aid in thickening of meat, starch
  • The commercial thickening agent can thicken the food or liquids but adding too much can affect the overall taste, may lead to reluctant to eat or drink

It is a challenge for people with dementia, to consume adequate food and fluid to meet nutrition needs. The right texture and taste of food can make a world of difference in the seniors’ desire to eat.
 

Recipes


Butternut squash Soup

Ingredients:    

  • 2 large sweet potato *, cooked, mashed
  • l  large tomato (peeled)
  • ½ cup chicken broth  
  • 1 cup milk or cream
  • 1 tbsp margarine
  • dash pepper, salt, 1 tsp grated ginger

Method: 

  1. In a pot, bring tomato, mashed sweet potato, ginger, chicken broth to boil
  2. Add milk margarine, seasoning, stir, blend well,
  3. Simmer over low heat,  
  4. strain if needed to remove lump s before serving

can substitute with carrots, winter yellow squash, sweet potato, broccoli         

 
Pumpkin and chopped pork porridge

Ingredients:

  • Japanese pumpkin   half
  • Lean pork     150g
  • Rice       1 cup
  • Water      8 cup

 
Method:

  1. Peel and remove seeds of the pumpkin.  Steam and mash.
  2. Rinse and wipe lean pork.  Chop into tiny pieces.
  3. Cook porridge with water and rice.
  4. Add chopped pork and boil.
  5. Add mashed pumpkin and mix well.

 
Creamy corn soup

Ingredients: 

  • 1 can cream style corn
  • ½ cup milk *
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • cup tofu mashed *
  • egg, beaten *
  • dash salt, pepper, green onions-chopped fine

 
Method:

  1. In a soup pot, mix chicken broth and cream corn to boil
  2. Stir in tofu, egg, and milk to give the soup a thicker consistency
  3. Season with salt, pepper, green onions, simmer low heat for 10 minutes

milk, tofu, egg – provides additional protein to the soup

 
References