Mealtime can be a real challenge when caring for a loved one with dementia. Those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can have trouble understanding and communicating their hunger cues. Because one’s motor skills and cognitive reasoning can be affected by dementia, it can be difficult for someone living with dementia to properly care for themselves at mealtime. This article will explore tips for caregivers of those with dementia, and how to ensure that they are eating properly.
What Not To Do During Mealtime
Firstly, it is important to understand what doesn’t work. These strategies are shown to be ineffective and can frustrate already the already confused individual. Insisting or forcing your loved one to eat is counterproductive. Your loved one can become frustrated or combative when you get frustrated or angry with them. Begging them to eat, or asking them to “try it” generally does not work either. If they do not seem interested in eating, don’t just leave a plate in front of them and hope for the best.
Prepare the Meal with Them
When making a meal for your loved one, it can be a good idea to get them involved in the meal preparation, even at a limited capacity. If possible, have them stir a pot (carefully), or wash the vegetables. Many dementia patients that still have functioning motor skills can complete simple tasks that rely on muscle memory. Additionally, have your loved one sit in the kitchen with you while you prepare the food. The smells of cooking can help them better understand their hunger. This may help coax them to respond more positively when it is time to eat.
Making Nutritious Foods for Mealtime
It can be hard to get your loved one to eat, so the meal must be a nutritious one. Try to ensure that the foods they are eating are providing them with good nutrition. Making healthy choices for their diet will ensure that they are getting the most out of each meal. Limit salt content in the preparation. Limit processed foods when possible. If your loved one has trouble chewing, consider giving them pureed vegetables and powdered protein to ensure that they are still eating well. Use nut-based flours over wheat (if dietary restrictions allow), as they will have more nutritional value.
Ways to Encourage Eating During Mealtime
There are several ways to help promote eating at the right time. People with dementia work better in routines, so eating around the same time each day is a good idea. Set up to eat in a quiet, simple space. Ornate decor can be busy and distracting to the individual. Sit with them, and eat something as well. Even if it isn’t your mealtime, they will see it as a communal activity and are more likely to eat. Try not to talk to them while they eat. Added noise can be distracting to the task at hand. Along the same lines, turn the TV off during mealtime. If your loved one doesn’t eat, put the food into the fridge and try later
Place Setting and Mealtime with Dementia
The place setting can be an important aspect of getting them to eat. Avoid patterned plates, cups, china, and tablecloths. These patterns can be confusing for the individual and can distract them from the food itself. Only give them the utensil(s) they need to eat. This will help reduce confusion. Consider using dementia-friendly utensils and plates. Plates with a high lip can help reduce messes. Comfort-grip utensils can make it easier for them to eat. If they continue to struggle with utensils, try to incorporate more finger foods into their diet.
Record How Much They Ate
After the meal, take notes on how much of each item they ate. Measure food before serving and after they eat. This will give you a good idea of how much they ate. This will help you see how much they are eating. If necessary, discuss their food intake with a doctor.
Mealtime and Your Loved One’s Aide
Your loved one’s home health aide can assist them during mealtime. Our home health aides are trained to assist elderly and disabled patients with general care, including meal preparation. Caring for a loved one with dementia requires constant care throughout the day. If your loved one’s care requirements are growing, consider hiring a home health aide or home nurse.
Safe Harbor Healthcare Services does not provide medical, healthcare, or financial advice via articles. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for medical advice.
Safe Harbor Healthcare Services has been providing excellent home care on Staten Island since 1967. Our services help the elderly and disabled live safely and independently; while giving their families the peace of mind they need. For more information contact us by clicking here, or call (718)-979-6900.