According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) there are around 55 million people with dementia worldwide. As the proportion of older people in the population is increasing in every country, this number is expected to pass 78 million in 2030. Here in the UK, we are already exceeding the 850,000 figure and many of us have been affected by the condition at some point.
Dementia is a general term which covers multiple conditions that affect your cognitive function. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form and leads to symptoms such as loss of memory and difficulties with communication and problem solving. It can occur in varying degrees of severity and, while there is no current cure, there may be treatments that prevent the condition from worsening (depending on the specific type of dementia).
Medicines aside, receiving proper nutrition and eating a good diet is important to keep the body strong and healthy. For a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia, poor nutrition may increase behavioural symptoms and cause weight loss. The basic diet tips below can help a dementia patient’s health, as well as the health of a caregiver too.
- Reduce ultra-processed foods where possible. Lots of food we eat is processed. Wheat is processed to make bread and pasta, and milk is processed when it is pasteurised or used to make cheese or butter. These foods are not necessarily an unhealthy choice. However, there’s evidence that ultra-processed foods such as chocolate, fast food takeaways, ready-prepared meals, crisps, drinks, and salty and sugary snacks can have a negative impact on health.
- Fill up on lots of fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, and sources of protein. Eating a varied, Mediterranean-style diet that’s low in salt, sugar, and fat, and contains lots of colourful fruit and vegetables, will help keep those with dementia to stay fit and healthy.
- Go big on green leafy vegetables and berries. These are great for brain health due to their antioxidative properties, which may help to protect the brain from cell damage.
- Limit foods with high sodium and use less salt. Most people enjoy too much sodium in their diet which affects blood pressure. As an alternative, season food using spices or herbs.
- Stay hydrated. As the disease progresses, staying hydrated can be a problem. Encourage fluid intake by offering small cups of water or other liquids throughout the day. You could also eat foods with high water content, such as fruit, soups, milkshakes, and smoothies.
Diet and nutrition for dementia residents of the Future Care Group
Regular, nutritious meals may become a challenge for people living in the middle and late stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia. They may become overwhelmed with too many food choices, forget to eat, or think they have already eaten. At all 18 of our Future Care Group care homes, meals are prepared on site and served for residents, including those living with dementia. All residents are free to enjoy delicious, nutritious meals without the worry of remembering to eat, ensuring meals are healthy and balanced, or the impracticality of getting to the shops and cooking food for themselves.
Our in-house chefs and catering teams are trained and supported in providing our residents with a nutritionally balanced diet, with snacks available 24/7. Our catering and lifestyle teams work together to improve the mealtime experience. We have even created a chef’s forum where ideas and best practice can be shared amongst the group. The Future Care Group’s Dementia Leads and Catering Leads collaborate with our chefs to improve the appearance of textured modified food and snacks to enhance the diet of our residents who have swallowing difficulties. On top of that, our catering teams enjoy meeting with our residents and their loved ones regularly to find out the specific likes and dislikes of each resident and learn what meals were personal favourites before dementia came into their lives. We can then add them onto the menu for all to enjoy.
Try a dementia friendly recipe
One of the most popular meals regularly enjoyed by the dementia patients here at the Future Care Group is cottage pie. Here is the recipe for anyone caring for someone with dementia at home.
More information about our Dementia care offering can be found on our website.