Eating/Drinking Tools Helpful for Lewy Body Dementia in the Later Stages
I like to eat.
I like to see others eat.
There are few things more aggravating to me from my nursing days than seeing a patient tray delivered to an elderly person, and left, uncovered. It still makes me angry that elderly and forgetful patients get left to their own devices when it comes to eating. They often can’t open a milk carton, and their shaky hands drop the food before getting it in their mouths. They cannot cut their food, and sometimes it just seems too difficult and they give up.
What’s more, a person with dementia may forget to eat, not realize they should call for help, and not feel the need to drink liquids.
People with dementia need help eating. Period.
In the early to middle stages we want to allow them to do as much for themselves as possible. But during the later stages, we must do more.
Special Considerations for Lewy Body Dementia Loved Ones.
Lewy Body Dementia and other types of dementia, as well as aging, can present some challenges for eating and drinking, as well as taking necessary medications.
As sensations, taste preferences, and swallowing abilities change, so can food intake. Also, with Larry Body Dementia, metabolism changes can cause severe weight loss even with adequate calories. This makes it a real challenge to help your loved one eat.
I am listing several tools that we have found to be helpful for helping your loved one find enjoyment with eating and drinking.
This includes tools to help take medications
Helpful Tools for Eating and Drinking with Lewy Body Dementia
- Adult bib. Choose your favorite kind. We like the Heavy, terry cloth bibs and I like the waterproof, wipeable, silicone bib with a pocket. I will say that the terry cloth ones are more like towels, so seem less “bib-like”, but I do like the pockets on the other ones. If you look, you can find fun fabric patterns, or make some yourself if you have time!
- Soft straws that bend
- Thick smoothie straws for shakes and smoothies/soups
- Thin/tall silicone straws for thinner liquids.
- Cut straws for short cups. I still like silicone, since they are soft, but disposable plastic straws are very handy.
- Flip top Straw cup until the very late stages.
- *Thickener for liquids. There is debate on if thickener really helps to prevent aspiration, but it did help make it so Dad didn’t choke as much on his liquids. The VA provided this to add to liquids. You add one packet for about 4 oz liquid, or you get it in a powder to mix into water and juices.
Shake maker for personal shakes. There are many out there, such as the NutriBullet, and, of course, full-sized blenders. But when making small portion shakes, it became way easier to have a personal-sized blender. We chose the Koios blender and have been very happy with it. It is not as strong as our Vitamix, but it’s a fraction of the price, and very handy, because you blend in the serving cup, eliminating the need to wash a blender jar. We made protein powder shakes, fruit smoothies, and used it to blend up soups and foods into a purée.
Simple Food Chopper I get these simple choppers locally at our bulk food store, and use my plain edge cutter for chopping up Dad’s food. No frills, no mess, just quick work. You can use it right in your bowl or on your plate to mash up foods. It’s easier than trying to do it with a knife and fork.
- Eye dropper for baby meds and a Baby medicine spoon. My mom actually had a set like This one from her babysitting days. We found that the medicine dropper and the medicine spoon work very well to feed my dad liquids, such as water or cough syrup. On days when he’s too weak to open his mouth much or use a straw, we can drip in water. I don’t really find it tedious, and the dropper is wide enough to be comfortable to use and receive liquids from.
- Small spoons When you’re spoon-feeding someone, I find that a spoon with a longer handle and a small spoon make it easier to get food into the mouth. With weakness comes less opening of the mouth, so I kind of like to use a baby spoon with a longer handle. I also like that many baby spoons have soft tips in case the spoon gets bitten.
- *Lemon-glycerine swab sticks. These are helpful to swab through a person’s mouth to moisten, soothe, and protect the mucous membranes. Especially when a person is not eating or drinking much, the mouth gets dry, the secretions thicken, and so the lemon-glycerine brings a pleasant flavor. The glycerine softens the gums and soothes irritated membranes. Use these liberally when a person is not drinking. Until that time, use occasionally to freshen the mouth. *Your home care provider will probably supply these if you ask*
- Lip balm. I always prefer a natural, chemical free lip balm with natural flavors. For some reason, I really like a peppermint flavored one, because it’s uplifting, cooling, and counteracts mouth odors. But variety is nice. If you could not eat much food, having different flavors of chapstick can be nice. This set has six natural flavors, it’s organic, and has wonderful feedback. You can almost always find EOS, Burt’s Bees, and Lip Smacker (though not natural, it has great flavors) at the grocery store checkout aisle. Go ahead and have fun with your flavors to give your loved one some variety.
- Beet juice. I just thought I’d toss this in. Several studies, including this study demonstrate that beet juice can help with dementia. Why mention it for use in the latter stages of Lewy Body Dementia? Because, in my opinion, we may as well try to make every day count. I notice, that in the days when my dad drinks his beet juice, that he does have better clarity and cognition. Even though he is declining, I’d rather help him to have as much awareness as possible, and make him feel the best that he can.
- Over the months/years since Dad has been diagnosed, I notice more decline when he’s off the beet juice and better days when he’s on. So I’ll keep offering it to him.
- We make ours with 5-lb of organic carrots and 4-6 medium-large beet roots. I run the beet leaves and stems through too. Dad enjoys the juice, and now we thicken it for him. We freeze the juice in little jars and pull one out per day.
It’s important to provide healthy food and drink for hit loved one. But, as his or her disease progresses, it becomes more difficult to eat the foods he or she is used to. This is due to many factors, including:
- Changing tastes from medications and nerve damage
- More difficulty chewing and swallowing
- Increased oral secretions/drooling
- Difficulty manipulating utensils
You can help your loved one by providing soft foods, smoothies with protein powder and fruits/veggies snuck in, and familiar favorites.
As taste declines with age and dementia, often the sense of sweet taste is the last to be lost. So, your loved one may prefer sweet foods such as puddings, ice cream, applesauce and smoothies because they just taste better to him/her.
As the disease progresses, soft foods become essential because of swallowing difficulties. Keep the smoothies and mashed potatoes coming!
Remember: when your loved one approaches the end, any nutrition is preferable to no nutrition. In other words, provide the foods that your loved one enjoys, even if it’s not high on the nutrition scale. I have to remember this 😊
Keep familiar comfort foods readily available. Now’s not the time to try new exotic dishes.
Make Grandma’s borscht, and Mom’s homemade cookies. Give favorite drinks and offer them frequently.
Elderly people and those with dementia are at high risk for dehydration, so keep a variety of beverages at the bedside.
Switch up hot and cold drinks.
Variety is the spice of life, so keep it different!
I found this graphic helpful, from the Alzheimer’s Association
Thank you for your service
If you are caring for a loved one in the later stages of Lewy Body Dementia, you are providing a priceless gift to him or her. You are serving them with love, and even if they cannot thank you in words, your service will touch their hearts.
Don’t forget to check out the other posts in this series: