Eating traditional family dinners or listening to soothing music could help to protect people with dementia from dehydration and malnutrition, a study has found.
Older people with dementia are among those at the highest risk of both conditions as they may be less aware of drinking enough fluids or remembering to eat.
Experts tried more than 50 mealtime interventions among more than 2,200 people with dementia, and found serving family-style meals in a homely environment could help boost nutrition and fluid intake.
More than 90,000 Scots are living with the degenerative brain condition, which can affect memory, language and understanding.
Lead researcher Dr Lee Hooper, from University of East Anglia’s (UEA) Norwich Medical School, said: “The risk of dehydration and malnutrition are high in older people, but even higher in those with dementia.
“Malnutrition is associated with poor quality of life so understanding how to help people eat and drink well is very important in supporting health and quality of life for people with dementia.”
While no intervention was wholly successful, the study published in the Geriatrics journal today suggested a holistic approach to mealtimes was promising.
Dr Hooper said: “It is probably not just what people with dementia eat and drink that is important for their nutritional wellbeing and quality of life – but a holistic mix of where they eat and drink, the atmosphere, physical and social support offered, the understanding of formal care-givers, and levels of physical activity enjoyed.”
Amy Dalrymple, head of Policy at Alzheimer Scotland, said an array of factors can cause issues with eating and drinking, such as sensory overload, coordination problems or pain.
She said: “This wide range of potential factors mean that a personalised response to each individual is crucial to make sure that people with dementia are being supported to eat and drink in the way that best suits them.”