3 Eating Hazards for Someone With Dementia

Endless ice cream? A new preference for pickles? Eating quirks and new food preferences can be a side effect of brain changes associated with many dementias, as the person loses a sense of the meaning of flavors. When added to the loss of sense of smell and taste, which are also common dementia symptoms, your loved one may not realize that a food is stale or unsafe to eat.

Beware of these dangerous eating habits:

  • Eating foods that have gone bad. Periodically check "sell by" dates and routinely clear spoiled food from the refrigerator.

  • Not consuming a varied diet. As he or she relies more on habit to compensate for loss of immediate memory, there might be a tendency to overeat the same foods, or favorite foods, to the exclusion of others.

  • Eating foods that aren't food at all. People with dementia have been known to choke on wooden or plastic fruit they perceived as real; drink facial products that have pictures of citrus on them, thinking it was a fruit drink; and eat paint chips, paper bits, or other dangerous substances.


over 3 years ago, said...

I have noticed that my Mother will one day like a certain food & then the next time she says she never liked that. Also, nothing seems sweet enough to her & therefore she keeps wanting me to add more sugar & if I don't, she refuses to drink or eat it. Also, the taste of salt has apparently left because that is the next thing she complains about...either too salty or not enough. Your article enlightened me because I didn't realize that the Dementia does this to them.


over 4 years ago, said...

I always have to check dates as my mom who is almost 86 and almost blind would probably eat anything in her fridge, Im always throwing stuff out, so now I buy a lot less for her ,but all she wants is chocolate bars ( 5 a week ) and yogurt, plus she gets meals on wheels, so I try to vary it a little for her with some frozen breakfasts which she also likes..


over 4 years ago, said...

My father, in moderate to severe Alz stage, was losing too much weight. My mother was caring for him but did not realize he was not eating enough. His doctor said to give him a high calorie nutrition shake every day (there are many brands and flavors, and they taste good cold). It was easy for my mom to remember to give him his shake, and I could check by counting the remaining shakes. I bought a huge container of trail mix (nuts, raisins, colorful chocolates) and kept a clear bowl filled on the kitchen counter. I would cheerily hand him a bowl of apple slices and walk away. He ate best when the food was easy to see, there was no thinking involved in getting it (no wrapper, not in fridge or cupboard), no decision involved (just handed it to him or set it in front of him "here you go"), and no distractions (TV, conversation). If he refused a food, I would say "OK, I'll put it away in a little while" and often he would forget he turned it down and start eating it in a bit.


over 5 years ago, said...

I hadn't realized that her loss of smell/taste was a sympton - so many more things just keep making sense now!! Thanks


over 5 years ago, said...

Very!


over 5 years ago, said...

y husband has lost so much weight in the past year because when I am at work all he will eat are popcicles and ice cream! When I cook he hates cabbage or broccoli one day and complain that we never have it another. Sometimes he forgets that we have eaten supper and asks when we are going to eat. It is so up and down I never know what to expect. This article has helped me understand why his eating habits have cahnged and I can deal with it when there is a why associated with it, Thanks a million.


over 5 years ago, said...

Seeing some of these changes happening, so this brought awareness to me that I had not thought of as being AD related.


over 5 years ago, said...

How about setting up food servings in advance of being needed. Lunches & dinners can be assembled & put into bags or boxes and left with labels on them with easy instructions. Take out all of the un nutritious items. Or set it up that they can only find one serving of cookie when they go looking for one. Life has to have some pleasant goals too. I set up yogurts, puddings and jellos to be found in the fridge. Make the jello sugar free but add OJ as part of the cold set. Each one is only a tiny amount so they dont get too much at any one time.


over 5 years ago, said...

Good advice regarding the food issues. There are a number of us now sharing the duties of caring for my mother who has dementia. That may be more problematic in terms dietary considerations if the communication among us isn't well handled. Since my father's recent passing, my mother's desire to eat regular meals has waned and we have to work hard to keep up a varied menu selection and try to limit the 'snack foods' that she would just as soon eat in place of more nutritious fare. We try to keep a stable meal schedule and serve balanced meals - that doesn't mean she will eat what is served, even if the foods are former 'favorites'. What was enjoyed the last time it was served may be completely rejected the next time it is offered. It is difficult to be 'right', but is is important to do the best you can to avoid the 'wrong'. Just suppress the frustrations as best you can and keep plugging away with a positive attitude.


over 5 years ago, said...

Understanding how the brain is loosing the capability to distinguish when foods are spoiled, and the reason my mother seems to crave certain foods. Thank you very much for this important information!


over 5 years ago, said...

My mother has Dementia & it's been a learning experience! I never thought about this one. I found a plastic fork melted because she tried to stir something on the stove & then tried to eat with it. Since then I have unplugged the stove. She is still capable of using the microwave or toaster. We take one day at a time & I try not to feel guilty when she surprises me. I'm trying to let her have as many days as possible to feel like a part of society before that last step has to be made!


over 5 years ago, said...

That's what I need to know - how to get them to eat more than 2 items over and over and over, every day - and very unhealthy items.


over 5 years ago, said...

How about suggestions on what to do about them - we know the problems, just need solutions.


over 5 years ago, said...

This article is so true. My dad who suffered from Alz. Never liked peanut butter all his life. All of a sudden one day, he was eating peanut butter! And couldn't get enough of it! He went thru spurts, disliking things we knew he loved to eat for years, then switching back again to things he didn't usually eat at all. We had to observe everything he ate, what he was near, things he could get his hands on. While in the hospital getting tests, we caught him just in time putting a flower stem in his mouth. He was ready to eat it!


over 5 years ago, said...

It's fine to call attention to problems but it's better to provide solutions that work. Checking expiration dates and disposing of spoiled or expired date foods is a good solution. However there was no recommendation of how to address the problem of someone wanting the sames foods over and over when they do not result in a balanced diet.