Mealtime can be a challenge for individuals living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Researchers and staff of assisted living facilities have developed tips to help those living with dementia cope with the unique obstacles these diseases present.
Common struggles associated with mealtime for individuals suffering from memory loss:
- Oral health: weight changes and/or gum disease can cause dentures to fit poorly over For an aging loved one, it can be hard to determine these underlying oral health issues if they have limited verbal communication skills.
- Coordination problems: Many adults living with Alzheimer’s experience struggles with hand-eye coordination. Modified silverware and food that is easier to eat can help a loved one avoid low self-esteem and preserve their dignity.
- Decreased appetite: Some loved ones living with memory loss may no longer recognize their body’s signals for hunger or thirst. Some medications may also cause a loss of appetite. Finding different ways to stimulate appetite can make mealtime more appealing.
- Attention span: People who are living with dementia or Alzheimer’s often have trouble focusing for long periods of time. Sitting down and eating can be challenging. If they are agitated or anxious, it can exacerbate the issue.
If you have a loved one living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease who struggles at mealtime, here are a few tips to help:
- Use bright place settings: Bright, solid colored plates and settings can be helpful. One study from Boston University’s Red Plate Society found that adults living with Alzheimer’s ate 25 percent more food when served on red plates as opposed to white.
- Individual food groups: Serving each meal by food group, beginning with the most nutrient-rich food helps your loved one stay focused during mealtime.
- Eliminate distractions: A peaceful, distraction-free environment is crucial to helping your loved one attend to and enjoy mealtimes
- Model good mealtime behavior: Eating meals as a family is a great start. Eating healthy foods and modeling the behavior you hope to see them follow is a discreet way to help them when necessary.
- Use adaptive serving pieces: Serve food in bowls and use adaptive utensils. Forks require more coordination than spoons. When possible, serve finger foods. Be sure to cut food into bite-size pieces ahead of time to prevent choking.
- Serve enticing food: If the food looks good and smells good, your loved one will be more interested. Start with your loved one’s favorite foods and go from there.
Caring for a loved one living with dementia or Alzheimer’s requires consideration and a willingness to adapt as needed. If your loved one struggles with eating. these tips can help mealtime go more smoothly.