Nutrition and Dementia
By Corinne Cox (Advanced Accredited Practicing Dietitian, Meals on Wheels NSW)

Dementia results in declining cognitive and physical functioning which impact independence, and also the ability of individuals to maintain good nutrition and hydration levels. Shopping and cooking can become very challenging. It is common for people with dementia to have a reduced interest in food and not recognise meal times/hunger cues. Taste and smell can be affected which can affect appetite and palatability of foods, it can also mean that unpleasant smells are not detected, increasing the risk of an affected person eating spoiled food, or not being able to smell burning or leaking gas – these issues can result in cooking being unsafe for some individuals. The most commonly reported nutrition-related symptom of dementia is weight loss, which is associated with malnutrition.

The neurological changes that are also a part of dementia can result in muscle weakness and reduced co-ordination which can make preparing and cooking food difficult. Dysphagia, or swallowing issues can also develop, so texture modified meals may be required for some individuals.

Aside from the debilitating effects of dementia, poor nutritional status has significant effects on functional mobility, strength, wound healing and general well-being amongst other things.

In order to offset the effects of dementia outlined above a home delivered meal service may be of significant benefit to support individuals with dementia to maintain good nutritional status, which in turn helps them to maintain their independence and physical mobility.

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