Severe Dementia Refusal to Eat

What to Do When Someone With Severe Dementia Refuses to Eat

Distressing though it can be to watch someone refuse to eat, this is a normal development of severe-stage dementia. Losing interest in food is often the beginning of the body shutting down.

Force-feeding is never a good idea; your loved one may choke or inhale food into the lungs. Some better options:

  • Once someone ceases to accept foods, you can follow his or her lead or preferences stated in an advance directive, if it exists.

  • You can choose to discuss with the doctor the pros and cons of prolonging life through artificial nutrition and hydration.

  • To keep the person comfortable, offer liquids to drink or swab the mouth with a moistened sponge. Some people enjoy the sweet taste of a small drop of honey or strong, thick juice (like pineapple) on the tongue.


about 1 month ago, said...

see how fast Henry has regressed. I wrote that he was driving well in 6 of 2016, now he is totally a scare, removed both hands from wheel, looks back, bends head to pick of objects in floor, speeds 25 or more miles over and lastly picks up pieces of paper to read (as if he isnt driving) He once almost rear ended because of his reading a papaer, I had to scream as he had no intention to slow down. help


about 2 years ago, said...

I write from personal experience. It is one thing to know that inserting a feeding tube does more harm than good for patients with late Alzheimer's; it is another to check the "No" box for that process on a form with a beloved patient's name at the top. The temptation to grasp at straws is strong, but it *can* and *should* be resisted.


over 2 years ago, said...

My mom has taken a quick turn - 4 months ago - she started with continually talking - repeating "I can't" with very little true communication. In June she fell and broke her hip. She had surgery and is in Rehab now. For the first 2 weeks, she was making great progress, then she woke up in the middle of the night vomitting. The next day - she has stopped eating, and is barely drinking, all of the advances in therapy are gone. She gets aggitated if I approach her with a spoon, and if she does open her mouth - not often, she pouches the food and it eventually comes back out of her mouth. She will take a cup and drink from time to time - but not much. How long can your body and mind continue this way until it finally lets go and allows the peace of passing?


over 2 years ago, said...

As I read your comments and suggestions, I realized that I am not alone in dealing with a loved one going through this. [Dementia care question moved here: http://www.caring.com/support-groups/alzheimers-and-dementia-care/c905361f


over 2 years ago, said...

This is what is happening with my mom now. Some days my brother expects me to force her to eat. Some days it takes 1 1/2 hours to feed her. She doesn't want to eat but he knows if we don't force to eat she will die. She does not want a feeding tube. She a living will.


about 3 years ago, said...

Thank you all for your comments, which help -- going through this with my sweet mother. She is not refusing to eat -- it's one of the few joys left to her -- but after a TIA is having trouble swallowing. Pudding and soups go down ok, and for some reason carbonated drinks, but would appreciate any advice from people in a similar situation.Thanks.


almost 4 years ago, said...

Yes it was helpful - yes, it also was scarry ! It is not "my loved one" but me that can not eat !!! When he acts up my whole body goes into a muscle contraction and it is impossible for me to eat. Am I the only one this is happening to ?


almost 4 years ago, said...

The suggestions for keeping patient comfortable.


almost 4 years ago, said...

to Wkind51. You should consider Hospice anyway because they help with showers, a nurse comes weekly and a nurse practionier comes every 2 mos., and a doctor was out to re-evaluate, and also a social worker and a chaplin stop by. Also the Hospice I am with (Hospice of Hope) as respike care monthly for 5 days. I just recently had to take my husband there two weeks before Christmas because I came down with an acute case of RA and swollen nerve in my foot from my bunions. Now wearing a boots to help with the pain and on Prednisone for my RA until I can get back to my RA doctor the 1st ot the year. Hospice was my daughters idea because she works and can not (and really did not want to make an effort or a responsible to help) , and I am also with Seniors Program in our area, county of Clermont, in Cincy, Oh,( New Richmond, Ohio area.) Which sents someone to do some light house keeping. I live in the best county in Ohio which is number one for Senior Services. God Bless


almost 4 years ago, said...

Thanks, I never considered anything else but water. honey & thick juice, like pinepple, on the tongue.


about 4 years ago, said...

Thank you for your usefull articles, it is always helpful to know you are not alone in having to watch your loved one leave you slowly with this awful disease. I can still get my wife to take food in a yougarty or liquid consistancy but it is becoming more and more difficult and I know in time it may not be possible. I sometimes pray that the Good Lord would take her quickly and yet in my heart do not want her to go, its so sad. Mike


over 4 years ago, said...

My father Has always been a healthy eater although he now wants to sleep during his dinner meal. I have found that if I offer him a drink or something cold he usually will take a bite of his food for me. I am observant and recognize his need to sleep so I never force him to eat. I give him a magic cup in between meals. I know he has fought a good battle with this disease and in my eyes he has won. He deserves a peaceful end. He is my hero and my father.


over 4 years ago, said...

from my last post, I feed my wife with a syringe the last 4 months, she was bedridden from then on. She was feed, bathed, change diapers and kept comfortable. I think she knew me to the end, she had a spell on Saturday and on Wednesday evening another and she got her wish at 7pm on the 20th of June to Go Home, when her heart stopped. We celebrated her 85th birthday on 10th of June and we had over 60 years together. We battled her Dimentia over 6 years and it was blessing from God when he took her home and have no more pain. I personally feel Alzhiemer is a worse disease than cancer or any other, as there is no possibility of slowing down or stopping it.


over 4 years ago, said...

The support that it gave for our chosen pathway.


over 4 years ago, said...

This reenforces for me that the body/mind knows if and when it's time to go.


over 4 years ago, said...

My wife is now having less interest in food and will not chew at all and not want her upper plate in at all. She is unable to stand and when standing her legs will be crossed and wants her feet way out in front. Has to be lifted in and out of wheelchair to the bed and onto potty chair. I guess this is the pure sign that her body is starting to shut down, but I'm not sure it is hospice time or not, but will talk with Doctor. Any comments will be read, thank you.


about 5 years ago, said...

Sad, but true. We do need to be conscious of our loved ones' needs when their bodies begin to shut down. If we try to feed them (because that's what we do when we love someone, we want to give them food to nourish them), we'll force their bodies to direct energy/blood to the non-essential functions such as swallowing and digesting. Instead, the body knows at a cellular level...it tries to preserve the essential functions of the brain, heart, etc.