Dining approach could help those with dementia

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Dining approach could help those with dementia
Dining approach could help those with dementia

Eating together, providing social support and interaction during meals could help people with dementia avoid dehydration and malnutrition and have improved quality of life, according to new research published in the journal BioMed Central Geriatrics.

Although no interventions in the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom, study were unequivocally successful, the holistic approach to mealtimes showed promise.

“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,” said lead researcher Lee Hooper, Ph.D., from UEA's Norwich Medical School.

The team reviewed studies of 56 interventions, including changing the color of the plate, increasing exercise, using waitress service, playing different types of music, singing, doing tai chi, creating a home-like eating environment, providing nutrition supplements and boosting the social aspect of eating. They also looked at studies of whether better caregiver education and training could help, and they examined behavioral interventions such as giving encouragement for eating.

“We found a number of promising interventions — including eating meals with caregivers, having family-style meals, facilitating social interaction during meals, longer mealtimes, playing soothing mealtime music, doing multisensory exercise and providing constantly accessible snacks,” Hooper said. “Providing education and support for formal and informal caregivers were also promising.” 

No interventions should be ruled out, she added, because may of the studies they reviewed were too small to draw any definite conclusions.

“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 caregivers and levels of physical activity enjoyed,” Hooper said.

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