People with HD usually need more calories than normal and frequently struggle to eat enough because of interference from the symptoms of HD.
- People with HD can’t always communicate well when they are hungry.
- Sometimes they can’t identify the sensation of feeling hungry and are unaware
- Because they eat slower, they may think they’re finished when everyone else ends their meal.
- Swallowing problems can make it harder to get the nutrition they need and choking becomes a safety concern.
- Distractions might disrupt their meal and their food goes unfinished.
- Depression can decrease appetite and interest in food. It can also increase cravings for comfort food.
- Some medications affect appetite. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist to learn about this side effect.
What to do
Irritability can be caused by hunger so be prepared to provide high calorie snacks.
Eat meals at the same time every day. This prevents someone from forgetting their hungry and getting the hangries.
Caffeine can make tremors and involuntary movements worse. Limit coffee, cola and energy drinks.
If unvoluntary movements are making mealtime a messy challenge, try some of these tips:
- Use pasta plates instead of dinner plates. The low sides make it easier to pick up food
- Sports cups with lids and straws prevent spills
- Large handled forks and spoons are easier to grasp
- Heated dishes can keep food warm for slower eaters
If distractions are preventing someone from finishing their meal, create a calm atmosphere during meals. Turn off the tv and music, keep conversations light (no big decisions or controversial topics).
Choking becomes a bigger concern during the mid-stages of HD. Some tips to keep everyone safe include:
- If someone is eating too fast, replace 3 big meals with 6 or 7 smaller meals.
- Problem foods that are dry, flaky or crumbly should be avoided. Keep your own list of foods that caused choking.
- Soft foods are easier to eat. Examples include: macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, soups, yogurt, ice cream, soft cheese, milk shakes. If a food isn’t soft enough, add a gravy, creamy dressing, butter, mayonaise or sour cream.
- Spicy and acidic foods can cause problems and should be avoided. These include: citrus fruits and juices, hot peppers and other spices.
- When swallowing liquids is a problem, add a thickener to avoid choking.