Dementia Friends Champion Helen Morris offers some thoughts on people living with dementia and their diet
DEMENTIA CAN create some real issues when it comes to eating – remembering to eat and drink, or that you have already.
This always surprises people but it is not just that people living with dementia forget recent events, the signals we all take for granted become less reliable, so the ‘full’ and ‘starving hungry’ signals do not always get through the complex neural system to make us think correctly about food.
You can find good advice on the Alzheimer’s Society website about how to encourage better food intake. This includes making time to eat with the person and encouraging them gently if they appear to have lost interest.
Other useful things to know is the taste centre becomes impaired and so very sweet or more spicy food is craved to satisfy that very normal part of the eating process – enjoyment.
I would like to focus on some great work I am doing with dieticians and ‘ageing well’. It got real attention at a Dementia Friends session in Oldham for a group of older tenants, some of whom had a diagnosis of dementia.
It is important people with dementia look after their ageing bodies when it comes to diet. Any condition becomes doubly hard if accompanied by dementia, such as type 2 diabetes.
So, a focus on ‘superfoods’ can be a really simple way to improve diet. We need to boost four nutrients as we age: fibre for digestion, calcium for bone strength, B vitamins for your heart and mind, and zinc for a healthy skin and stronger immune system.
That might sound like a tall order but replacing sugary treats with a bowl of enriched cereals, milk and a banana could start to make a real difference to the quality of people’s life as they age.
There is a tendency to think ‘there is no point changing now I’m in my seventies or eighties’ but really there is, as many people with dementia are living well into their nineties.
Sources of these age-important nutrients are as follows:
- Fibre: wholegrain bread, cereals, beans, lentils, whole meal pasta and brown rice, fruits and vegetables
- Calcium: milk, cheese, yoghurt, fortified cereals, tinned fish eaten with bones in, beans and lentils
- B Vitamins: meat, fish, eggs, fortified cereals, soya and beans
- Zinc: mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, beef, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, fortified cereals and milk
Call Helen Morris, Dementia Friends Champion 07976 702171 to run a Dementia Friends session for your group.