Caregiver Corner: Mealtime

CaregiverRegular nutritious meals may become a challenge for people with dementia. They may become overwhelmed with too many food choices, forget to eat, think they have already eaten, or have difficulty with utensils.

Following are a few tips to make mealtimes easier:

  • Limit distractions. Serve meals in quiet surroundings, away from the television and other distractions.
  • Keep the table setting simple. Use only the utensils needed for the meal. Use white plates or bowls with a contrasting color placement to help the person distinguish the plate from the table. Avoid placing items on the table that might distract or confuse the person.
  • Distinguish food from the plate or bowl. Changes in your loved one’s visual and spatial abilities may make it tough to distinguish food from the plate. Avoid patterned dishes, tablecloths and placemats that might confuse the person.
  • Check the food temperature. The person might not be able to tell if a food or beverage is too hot to eat or drink.
  • Serve only one or two foods at a time. If many foods are served at once, the person may be unable to decide among the items on his or her plate.For example, serve mashed potatoes followed by meat.
  • Be flexible to food preferences. Keep long-standing personal preferences in mind when preparing food, and be aware that a person with dementia may suddenly develop new food preferences or reject foods that were liked in the past.
  • Give the person plenty of time to eat. Remind him or her to chew and swallow carefully. Keep in mind that it may take an hour or longer to finish eating.
  • Eat together. Make meals an enjoyable social event so that your loved one looks forward to the experience.
  • Keep in mind the person may not remember when or if he or she ate. If the person continues to ask about eating breakfast, consider serving several breakfasts — juice, followed by toast, followed by cereal.

To learn more tips and information on this topic, see the full section on eating at http://www.alz.org/living_with_alzheimers_eating.asp or download a pdf tip sheet at http://www.alz.org/national/documents/topicsheet_eating.pdf

If you need to speak to a Helpline Specialist, remember you can call our toll free Helpline any time, day or night at 800.272.3900.