Interventions to Improve Food Intake

Speaker: H. H. Keller Presented at: 2015 The New York Academy of Sciences


Nutrition is integrally linked to brain function, cognition, and dementia. Post the diagnosis of dementia, weight loss predominates; weight loss is a common signal event identified at diagnosis. A variety of hypothesized mechanisms have been suggested to explain why weight loss is more likely to occur in those with dementia. Regardless of the cause, low body weight puts these older adults at increased risk for functional impairment and comorbidity. With the progression of dementia, eating behaviors change, impacting the capacity of the older adult to sustain food intake and body weight. A variety of interventions to support food intake have been trialed, some with greater success than others. Flexibility in mealtime activities, individualization, increasing choice and social interaction appear to be key. Understanding the importance of the psychosocial environment of the meal will improve quality of life of persons with dementia and potentially support continued food intake. The Life Nourishment Theory provides a basis for understanding the importance of a shared meal for older adults with dementia and their family care partners, as well as opportunities for intervening to improve the mealtime experience