People with Dementia and Their Eating/Drinking Difficulties

People with Dementia and Their Eating/Drinking Difficulties


Suppose you know someone or are surrounded by someone who has dementia. In that case, you may know about eating and drinking difficulties such people face regularly.

Dementia causes gradual cognitive deterioration, behavioral abnormalities, and motor problems in those who have it. As the symptoms worsen, eating and drinking difficulties are prevalent. 

According to research, over 80% of persons with dementia have at least one eating or drinking issue: trouble swallowing, lack of appetite, failure to recognize food and utensils, concentration challenges, and problems sticking to a meal schedule. These factors may have an impact on one’s physical and mental health. 

People with Dementia and Their Eating/Drinking Difficulties

Decreased oral intake in advanced stages of dementia may not be uncomfortable for persons with dementia. On the other hand, family caregivers and professionals may feel pressured to continue feeding to avoid appearing negligent. 

Relationships between the person with dementia and others may be affected by eating and drinking issues. Encouragement, food texture modification and fluid thickening, adapted utensils, ambient adaption, and careful hand feeding can help people with dementia who have eating and drinking challenges. 

With some of these adaptations, people with minor eating and drinking issues can be encouraged to continue oral eating and drinking; but, assistance particular to this demographic is less well specified in most guidelines.

Maintaining physical and mental health requires eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. Dementia, on the other hand, might damage a person’s capacity and motivation to eat and drink to satisfy their nutritional needs. 

Dementia patients frequently experience weight loss, hunger, and dehydration. These can have severe consequences for their quality of life, clinical results, and morbidity and death.

People with dementia may have difficulties eating and drinking, and their appetite is likely to vary as their condition worsens. They could:

  • They cannot recognize when they are hungry, thirsty, or have a full stomach and have difficulty preparing food or liquids.
  • Struggle to recognize food items have a change in appetite or taste find specific colors, textures, or smells of food off-putting struggle to adhere to particular diets, such as those for diabetes, coeliac disease, or religious or cultural diets have difficulty handling cutlery and feeding themselves develop a sweet tooth
  • They forget to eat and drink.

Appetite Problems

Dementia patients may experience a loss of appetite and interest in food. They might refuse to eat or spit food out. Anorexia in elderly persons may be caused by age-related changes in satiety signals, changes in gastrointestinal motility, and inflammation.

Depression, concurrent physical disease, lack of exercise, oral or dental issues, discomfort, constipation, or drug side effects can cause a loss of appetite. Appetite modulation and eating behavior may be impacted by dementia-related brain shrinkage.

Changes in flavor and odor

Peripheral loss of taste/smell receptors or neurons causes significant taste preference, quality, and intensity perception deficiencies. Olfactory deficiencies occur not just as people age but also in the early stages of dementia. According to research, people with dementia show a significant preference for sweeter meals and carbohydrates over protein and fat.

Problems with behavior

People with dementia frequently walk with a goal since they may lose their capacity to recognize familiar areas. They may become agitated and wander around during mealtimes, resulting in increased energy consumption and the possibility of missing meals. Aversive eating behaviors might develop as a result of agitation. Personality changes might affect one’s attitude toward food and alter one’s dietary choices.

Food Purchasing and Preparation

Shopping and food preparation may become more challenging when one’s ability to accomplish complicated activities deteriorates. Dementia patients may have difficulty finding shop entrances or exits, become confused about buying, or become distracted by loud noises.

Forget the need to eat and drink

Dementia patients may forget to eat or drink or forget that they have already eaten and drunk, resulting in meal skipping or overeating. They may lose the cognitive capacity to start or maintain healthy eating habits. Food selection may be slowed and consumption reduced if decision-making capacity is impaired. Dementia patients may have difficulty conveying appetite, thirst, and likes and dislikes.


To address these eating and drinking challenges, novel interventions are needed. Research should focus on the most effective interventions for persons with dementia and their caretakers. High-quality randomized controlled trials with longer interventional durations are required to benefit both patients and caregivers.