You want to help your parent with dementia live at home as long as possible, but recently a new and disturbing development has occurred. This elderly person is getting sick from eating way too much food when nobody is around to stop the behavior. Now you're not sure whether to look into nursing homes or whether professional in-home care might help. The problem you're dealing with is medically known as hyperphagia and is relatively common in dementia patients.
Some individuals with brain damage suffer effects on the part of the brain that regulates impulsive behavior. Others have brain damage that disrupts their sense of satiety, or feeling full. This happens not only in some patients with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, but in a faction of persons with permanent brain injury due to a traumatic accident.
These people continue eating long after they should stop, which can lead to stomach discomfort and pain, as well as nausea and vomiting. Even when they report feeling full, they keep eating. Hyperphagia is the medical term for chronic overeating.
A study published in 1998 found that 23 percent of dementia patients experienced hyperphagia. A piece of good news from this study was that hyperphagia eventually stopped and did not happen again. Unfortunately, the condition can be expected to last for more than a year.
Caring for the Person With Hyperphagia
An effective way to decrease the dementia patient's desire to overeat is to decrease the variety of food in the house. Consider that people who don't suffer from brain damage tend to eat too much at buffets and at big holiday dinners. When the kinds of food are limited, people tend to eat less.
Provide meals at specific times every day. If the patient becomes agitated at not being able to eat, have small, frequent meals instead of three larger ones.
Don't keep unhealthy snack foods in the house; instead offer fruit and chopped raw vegetables. Fruit may be especially welcome since some people with hyperphagia crave sweet food.
Hiring In-Home Care
You and other family members can't always be with this person suffering from dementia. Having in-home professional help will effectively control episodes of overeating.
Contact an agency that provides home care, like GENACTA Home Care, and explain what's happening with your loved one. You want someone skilled and experienced with handling this type of problem. As you arrange for a personal caregiver to stay with your parent when no other family member can be there, you'll have better peace of mind knowing the hyperphagia episodes are under control.