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9 Ways to Maximize Meal Appeal for Your Loved One with Dementia

March is National Nutrition Month and the ideal time for caregivers of loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia to learn ways to make their meals more appealing.

Dementia care authorities advise that as your loved one’s dementia progresses, their eating habits are affected and meals can become more of a challenge. As a result, it becomes increasingly important for the person with dementia to eat enough food at mealtime and to receive sufficient nutrition.

Says Crystal Yost, PCHA, PCH, Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, located in Bryn Mawr, PA, “Mealtime can be a frustrating and highly emotional part of the day for loving caregivers who want to see their family members with dementia eat well. While meals can be challenging, the good news is that there are several useful tips you can follow to make meals more appealing and to encourage your loved one to eat well.

9 Tips to Increase Meal Appeal for Your Loved One with Dementia

According to dementia care experts at the Alzheimer’s Association®, AgeSpace and other sources, the following recommendations can make mealtime more satisfying and productive for both your loved one with dementia and you:

  1. Avoid mealtime distractions – Serve meals in quiet surroundings, away from the television and other distractions. Allow your loved one with dementia to focus solely on their food.
  2. Simplify the table setting – Avoid placing items on the table – such as table arrangements or plastic fruit – that might distract or confuse the person. Use only the utensils needed for the meal.

Consider using tableware designed for dementia patients. Plastic cups with handles, curved handles on forks and knives, plates with a high lip to keep food from sliding onto the table will make it easier for your loved one to manage food.

  1. Eat together – Make meals an enjoyable social event so everyone looks forward to the experience. Research suggests that people eat better when they are in the company of others. Set a place for yourself and put a little amount of food on your plate.
  2. Put the food on a red plate – Boston University researchers found that people with dementia ate 25% more food during meals when it was served on a red plate versus a white plate.  Changes in visual and spatial abilities may make it tough for someone with dementia to distinguish food from the plate or the plate from the table. Also, avoid patterned dishes, tablecloths and place mats.
  3. Check the food temperature – A person with dementia might not be able to tell if something is too hot to eat or drink. Always test the temperature of foods and beverages before every meal.
  4. Serve only one or two foods at a time – Too many foods at once might be overwhelming to your loved one with dementia. Simplify the meal by serving one dish at a time. For example, mashed potatoes followed by meat. Try soft, easy to swallow foods and cut meat into small pieces to make chewing and swallowing easier.
  5. Be mindful of meal preferences – Keep long-standing personal food preferences in mind when preparing food but be aware that a person with dementia can suddenly develop new food preferences or reject foods that they liked in the past. Also, make sure your loved one is getting needed nutrition.
  6. Give the person plenty of time to eat – Remind your loved one with dementia to chew and swallow carefully. Keep in mind that it may take an hour or longer for them to finish their meal.
  7. Keep in mind that persons with dementia may not remember when or if they ate – If your loved one continues to ask about eating breakfast, consider serving several breakfasts, e.g., juice, followed by toast, followed by cereal.

Crystal adds, “By following these expert tips, your loved one can eat better at mealtime, and you will have less frustration, worry and concern. Dining with dementia is also a high priority here at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, and we do everything possible to make meal times for our residents pleasant and successful.”

We encourage you to contact us with any questions you have on dementia care or to schedule a tour. Also, we invite you to read our timely blog articles on current caregiver and dementia care topics posted on our website.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, “9 Ways to Maximize Meal Appeal for Your Loved One with Dementia,” we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comfort of home. Our memory care community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again.

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again. 

For more information, please call Crystal at 484.380.5403 or contact us online. 

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.