Dementia Perception

Its a constant fascination to me, how dementia perception works.

My mother tried to bite the white plate I’d had given her a cream slice on. She’d obviously had trouble seeing the white cream slice against the plate. It wasn’t something I’d considered. Another time, I found she’d spread chocolate mousse all over her hair. The chocolate mousse was in a small white ramekin dish. This baffled me, until I remembered she had used a small ramekin to mix hair dye for her roots, for years.

Another time she was tried to scratch the pattern off a bowl, she thought was food stuck to it. If a drink is served the same time as a meal, she will often pour it over the plate, as she thinks its a sauce or gravy.

Dementia senses

Perception can change in other ways too. It can affect all senses. Experiencing confusion not just around vision: colors, patterns and objects, but sounds and language, touch and smells & textures.

Flavours can become enhanced. I’ve noticed my mums bad reactions to salty savoury dishes now, declaring disgusting, as if a whole salt cellar has been added. But her desire for sugary foods endless. She used to love certain fruits, but now won’t touch them, as says too sour. Hot drinks have to be hot, if even lukewarm she loses interest. Soups if too thick, not interested. She also developed a thing about texture of food. Much like a child. If too slimy ( jelly, cream caramel) she will not eat. Too dry a texture, she struggles to swallow easily. Swallowing can become more difficult as dementia progresses. Its called dysphagia, and thickening agents can be added to food & fluid to help.

Most of us, have these preferences to some extent, but maybe never think or discuss it. We just automatically seek out the foods we like. And know if we were starving and no other options we’d eat them regardless. However with dementia, if they are losing independence, and reliant on meals being provided, they cannot do this. And if they have no sense of needing to eat or hunger signals, they just pass it by. This is when it becomes so important for relatives, friends or carers to observe. Is it this causing them to not eat.

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