10 Reasons a Person with Dementia May Refuse to Eat

June 28, 2024
June 6, 2024
Posted by
Bre'anna Wilson
June 6, 2024
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Is your partner with dementia refusing to eat? There are many potential reasons for this, and understanding the cause is crucial for effectively addressing the issue. For instance, if the person is afraid of choking on food, using a red plate to increase appetite and visibility will likely be ineffective. Our interventions should target the specific issue at hand. To determine the cause, pay close attention to the cues your partner provides through their body language, actions, and words.

Here are 10 potential reasons your partner may be refusing to eat: 

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Fear of choking
  • Mouth pain or discomfort (dry mouth, mouth sores, tooth pain, swollen tongue, poor fitting dentures)
  • Decreased ability to accurately perceive hunger signals
  • Dislike of the food being served (the way it looks, the way it smells, and/or the way it tastes)
  • Don't recognize or see the food on the plate or what's on the plate looks overwhelming
  • Paranoia that food is being poisoned or tampered with
  • Difficulty with self-feeding (difficulty initiating task or frustration with task)
  • Medications causing lack of appetite
  • Depression

Bonus: There may be a misalignment with their cultural/religious practices or personal preferences. For example, they might want to pray over their food before eating, prefer a napkin placed in their lap prior to eating, or believe they need to wait for someone before starting their meal.

Could any of these reasons apply to your partner with dementia?

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