Food is a language that can unlock memories for a person living with dementia. From a young age, we begin associating memories and feelings to different dishes, as meals are one of the constants that bring us together as a shared human experience.
Many people with dementia experience weight loss as a result of appetite loss. Medical problems that cause weight loss in dementia can include: chronic infections, constipation, depression, medications, pain and thyroid disease. As the disease progresses, taste buds diminish (to as little as 10%), insulin levels in the brain drop, and some people experience intense cravings for high calorie foods.
Recently I've been focusing on providing visually appealing high calorie Trifles for my end of life, late stage dementia residents. Trifles are a dessert made with fruit, jelly, sponge, custard, cream and a dash of sherry. They were a popular dessert from the 1950's through to the 1980's. We have been making Trifles of different textures and flavours, from Madeira with mango jelly to Berry filled Jelly Roll with custard and cream combinations. To the delight of the residents, seated and watching as the trifles are assembled layer by layer, we have reminisced about trifles past; with or without sherry? With tinned fruits and flavoured jelly? For special occasions or regular family get togethers? In addition to serving up high calorie treats, memories have been found and shared from a time when fridges were a new household item and desserts were made with blancmange, canned fruit and tinned cream.
Resident looking at a 1970's Trifle Recipe Card
Understanding late stage dementia and Caring for someone with dementia (Eating) help sheet