Enhancing Dining Experiences for Individuals with Dementia

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Posted Jan 5th, 2024

Dementia can bring about notable changes in the perception of food, affecting both its smell and taste. Individuals facing Alzheimer's or other memory disorders may struggle to identify foods and discern whether they are full or hungry. Even the basic actions of using utensils or engaging in swallowing and chewing may become challenging.

Establishing a supportive environment is crucial. The appetite can be dulled by confusion, so aim to maintain a calm and streamlined atmosphere.

Consider dining with your relative, as this can establish the idea that it is time to eat. Simplify the dining setting by avoiding clutter, as a crowded table may confuse your relative's ability to distinguish between decorations and food. Minimize unnecessary noise by turning off the television and radio, and refraining from engaging in emotional or loud conversations.

Incorporate contrasting colors into the dining setup, as visual-spatial perception changes are common in dementia. For example, avoid serving mashed potatoes on a white plate against a white tablecloth. Keep the menu simple to prevent overwhelming your loved one.

Opt for small, frequent meals to accommodate the difficulty individuals with dementia may have sitting for extended periods. Serve one type of food at a time, selecting the most nutritious option and placing it on a small plate. Checking the food temperature before serving is essential, as your relative may be unable to perceive when it is too hot.

Stay flexible with meal choices, understanding that preferences can change daily due to sensitivity to smells and textures. Offer alternatives or wait before trying again, avoiding taking it personally. Support self-feeding by cutting food into bite-sized pieces and providing finger foods, remembering to wash your relative's hands carefully before and after.

If your loved one consistently shows disinterest in eating, consult with a doctor, as medications or dental issues could be impacting their appetite and making chewing painful.

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