Nutrition and Diet
Good nutrition is important for health and wellbeing. It is particularly important for recovery from illness. Eating only a limited diet or not getting enough food can lead to malnutrition. Malnutrition can be caused by:
- some diseases
- some medications, which can interfere with the body's ability to absorb nutrients
- problems with dentures making eating difficult
- problems with swallowing and chewing due to neurological conditions
- lack of appetite
- loss of smell or taste
If the person you care for isn’t getting enough nutrients it can also make it difficult for them to respond well to any treatment they may be receiving. As a carer you should encourage good nutrition and hydration and try to make meal times enjoyable for the person you care for.
It is recommended that adults drink the equivalent of six to eight glasses of water or other fluids every day. Make sure the person you care for has easy access to fluids throughout the day. For more information on fluid intake and dehydration, see NHS website Live Well: water and drinks.
Try to include the types of food the person you care for likes to eat into a weekly meal plan. Make meal times a fun and social occasion by sitting down at the table and eating together. You can get more tips by reading the advice in NHS websiteh Live Well: food and diet.
As a carer you also need to be aware of any difficulties the person you care for may have that will affect the type of food they can eat. For example, they may have food allergies or be diabetic. Dietary and cultural preferences should also be taken into account.
If the person you care for struggles with cups or cutlery there is specialist equipment available to help. They should mention this difficulty at their community care assessment to see if they can get help from social services. The Alzheimer's Society has information about some types of daily living aids that are available.
If the person you care for has difficulty swallowing their food you should contact their GP, who can refer them for specialist help.
For some conditions, this specialist help may include supplemental nutrition or alternative feeding methods such as a nasogastric tube or percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube, which is surgically implanted into the stomach. Find out more in Health A-Z: malnutrition treatment.