One of the most challenging things when caring for someone with dementia is when a person has stopped eating. For many people with dementia, eating and drinking become harder as the disease progresses.
Eating and drinking are complex processes controlled by the center in the brain and performed by strong muscles in the neck and throat. As dementia progresses, the decline affects these areas, causing the person to refuse to swallow food, hold food in the mouth, or make exaggerated movements of the mouth and tongue while eating. The person may also start clearing the throat, coughing or choking, or spitting food out.
Your loved one with dementia may be afraid that they will choke on food or feel pain while eating. This usually causes them to refuse food and stop eating and/or drinking.
A person may feel frustrated, feel rushed, or become angry or agitated by the environment they are in. They may refuse assistance with eating and drinking, so, help the person maintain as much independence as possible. If you see that the person is distressed or agitated, don’t push them to eat or drink.
No matter how concerned you are about your loved one with dementia refusing food, never force them to eat and drink, as it may cause a dementia patient to choke or become violent.
Observe the person’s level of activity and overall condition to understand how much food or drink he needs. In the last stages of dementia, the person’s activity drastically decreases, the need for food and fluid also declines, and their body has already started to adjust. Consult a medical professional to help you decide what steps can you take to help.
Once you understand this is a normal part of your loved one’s disease, it makes it easier to grasp why the person doesn’t need that much to eat or drink.
If the person shows interest in eating and drinking, provide pureed, finely chopped, or minced food.