Is It Ok for People With Dementia to Primarily Drink Supplements?

Ponder this question…if you could only drink your meals for the rest of your life, would you want to? I think hardly not. It’s not a way of life…it’s not quality of life. However, it’s up to each person; it’s their right to decide this. But we know that when people are progressing in their disease of dementia, when their ability to eat decompensates, that choice becomes compromised. Or does it? 

A quality dining program offered at home or within a community allows choice to be available. Choice is possible when using the Dementia Connection Model©, an empirically-validated cognitive behavioral framework. This model’s main approach includes using sensory stimulation. 

When a person with dementia is stimulated using their senses, that information is processed either directly or indirectly in the limbic system of their brain that houses the amygdala (feelings) and hippocampus (memories). Therefore, positive stimuli should be used to promote positive feelings and memories, this then promotes positive behavioral expressions. And when the caregiver is the one providing these positive experiences, the person with dementia will either connect or re-connect with them because they like how they feel with that person. 

Therefore, when various stimuli are used within a dining program, these will either influence positive or negative feelings for that person. They will then know what their choice is, innately. Then, the caregiver can observe their reactions and continue to provide more of what they like. Whether that’s particular food they like, colors of plateware they are attracted to, music they want to hear during meals, smells they enjoy, and more. 

In 2016, I conducted a focus group with a memory care assisting living community in the midwest, who were looking to improve their dining experience for their residents. With challenges of weight loss and an increasing need for supplemental use, running up costs for the families, they knew something needed to be done. The focus group ran for three months with this given prescriptive engagement plan used at each meal: aromatherapy (olfactory stimulation), music (auditory stimulation), and colored plates (visual stimulation). The aromatherapy and music were started 30 minutes prior to each meal, and colored plateware was used based on the needs of the individual. Purees were served in bowls to make it look like soup (visual stimulation), and therapy assisted with any adaptable equipment needed (tactile stimulation). Results showed promising results:

  • 46% of residents increased their food consumption
  • 54% of residents gained or maintained weight
  • 72% decrease in supplemental use

And after 30 days, residents, who could but weren’t before, were wheeling themselves independently to the dining room on their own, as they were able to learn what the scent and sound meant – “It’s time to eat!”. This allowed residents to practice their own navigation skills and provide them with a form of physical activity, on top of gaining back their independence. It also allowed staff to just focus on the residents who really needed help, freeing up their time to be used in a more productive manner.

All-in-all, choice is possible from an organic process that happens in our brain when using the Dementia Connection Model. At the Dementia Connection Institute, we are always striving to educate caregivers and professionals to fill their toolbox with lots of tools to be prepared when caring for those living with dementia. When caregivers are educated and prepared, this allows those living with dementia to live freely in their new world, without judgment, controls, and negativity. 

Learn hands-on about the Dementia Connection Model to enhance your skills in communication, ADL care, engagement, behavioral management, environmental design, and much more in our new dementia certification programs. Become certified as a Dementia Connection Specialist (DCS) or Dementia Connection Specialist Certified Trainer (DCSCT)! Now offering virtual and in-person seminars. Learn more.

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Dr. Jennifer Stelter
Dr. Jennifer Stelter, also known as The Oil Doctor, Psy.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and Johns Hopkins Press author, who specializes in dementia care. She has 20 years experience in the healthcare field and over a dozen in the senior living industry. She is a Certified Dementia Practitioner and Certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Trainer through the National Council for Certified Dementia Practitioners.
Additionally, she is the CEO of NeuroEssence, LLC at the Dementia Connection Institute and the creator of the Dementia Connection Model(c). Also, she is the author of The Busy Caregiver’s Guide to Advanced Alzheimer Disease. At the Dementia Connection Institute, we provide training and education on dementia care to professionals and family caregivers with a heavy focus on ‘prescribing’ with non-pharmacological interventions and engagement and empowering care providers to do the same. The vision is that those living with dementia will be able to experience and navigate their new world freely because caregivers and professionals feel better educated, prepared, and empowered in how to provide quality dementia care. We are now open! Visit us at
Jessica Ryan
Jessica Ryan is a university educated Biologist and Educator, a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP) through the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners (NCCDP), an AromaTouch® Technique Trainer certified by Dr. Hill, a top doTERRA Wellness Advocate, and a founder and co-creator of AromaTechniques an aromatherapy and hand massage technique specific to the “vintage” population. She is the CEO of The Oil Mama, LLC, and co-founder and co-owner of NeuroEssence, LLC. She has 25+ years of experience in education and the sciences from high school to university and professional level. Over the last 10 years she has committed to staying on the forefront of evidence- based essential oil uses and educating individuals and families on reducing toxic load and increasing cellular nourishment as the key to healthy mind and body at any age. She has pioneered a specialization in working with the “vintage” population, healthcare professionals, and caregivers to educate them on the usage of therapeutic essential oils for longevity and quality of life as it relates to the Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and brain health.
Jessica regularly leads workshops and offers valuable and continued support through her various resources and one-on-one consultations. She also offers additional services to healthcare and residential facilities as related to the “vintage” population including caregiver and continuing education, hospice tools, and customized community wellness plans.