What Can You Do?

Helen Green, Admiral Nurse on Dementia UK’s Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline, advises on how best to support a person with dementia to eat and drink in a care home.

Eating and drinking is such an important aspect in daily life for a person’s mental and physical health. For a person with dementia, however, this has added importance as not eating a balanced diet or drinking enough fluids can lead to a number of other secondary conditions such as constipation or dehydration. These can actually increase the symptoms of dementia and lead to increased confusion and agitation for the person. Care home staff should therefore be mindful of the different ways they can support people with dementia to eat and drink.

There are many reasons why someone living with dementia begins to eat and drink less. Sometimes this is due to the messages of hunger or thirst not being received properly in the brain and causing them to forget to eat or drink. It could be due to reduced mobility, meaning that a person with dementia is no longer able to prepare foods as easily; or perhaps the person is no longer able to recognise the food in front of them.

There can also be underlying medical reasons why a person with dementia has lost interest in food or drink. This can be anything from depression to mouth pain. GPs and dentists can advise residents during their care home rounds.

Dementia care is all about providing person-centred care and a key part of this is for care home staff to truly understand and know a person’s experiences and history. This can include finding out a person’s likes and dislikes and any cultural or religious reasons as to why a person may not eat specific foods.

In care homes, a lot can be done to encourage eating and drinking. Care home staff can try turning off any background noise, such as from TVs or radios, to ensure that the person doesn’t get distracted during meal time. They can also try being flexible around the times they serve food and avoid

- 22 -

giving food or drink to someone with dementia when they’re feeling particularly tired or stressed.

Ensuring that the food or drink is appropriately served is also important. Plates with a bold edge or the use of brightly coloured place mats can help food stand out from the table, however plates of a solid colour can change how the food looks. There is also specially-adapted cutlery available for people with dementia. These can be made from materials to help with grip and to prevent spills.

If the person has a reduced appetite, try using a smaller plate with reduced portions to avoid overwhelming them. Regular snacks or finger foods throughout the day may be preferable to the traditional three square meals.

When fluid intake is a concern, regular verbal prompts are helpful in encouraging the person to drink more. It’s advisable to have various water points throughout the care setting.

Eating and drinking is oſten a social activity and observing someone else doing either of these things can also prompt someone diagnosed with dementia to take part. Meal times may be associated with fond memories for the person with dementia too. Therefore, care staff could consider dining with their residents and take the opportunity to enjoy time with those they are caring for.

For more advice on supporting a person with dementia with eating and drinking in a care home, or for any other questions around dementia, please contact the Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678 or by emailing helpline@

You can also review Dementia UK’s resource on the topic here.

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36