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.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio