Mealtimes with Alzheimer's and Dementia
Regular, nutritious meals may become a challenge for people with Alzheimer’s/ dementia. As a person’s cognitive function declines, he or she may become overwhelmed with too many food choices, forget to eat or have difficulty with eating utensils. For a person with Alzheimer’s/dementia, poor nutrition may increase behavioral symptoms and cause weight loss. Here are a few tips for making mealtimes more healthy and relaxing:
View mealtimes as opportunities for social interaction. A warm and happy tone of voice can set the mood. Research suggests that people eat better when they are in the company of others.
Limit distractions. Serve meals in quiet surroundings, away from the television.
Keep the table setting simple. Avoid table arrangements that might distract or confuse the person.
Be patient and give the person enough time to finish the meal. Remind them to chew and swallow carefully.
Respect personal, cultural, and religious food preferences, such as eating tortillas instead of bread or avoiding pork.
Distinguish food from the plate. Use white plates or bowls with contrasting color place mat. Avoid patterned dishes, tablecloths, and place mats.
If the person has always eaten meals at specific times, continue to serve meals at those times.
Serve meals in a consistent, familiar place and way whenever possible.
Avoid new routines, such as serving breakfast to a person who has never routinely eaten breakfast.
Provide a balanced diet.
Check the food temperature. Someone with dementia might not be able to tell if something is too hot to eat or drink.
Cut down on refined sugars and limit high saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol.
Add in supplements between meals to add calories.
Encourage fluids by offering small cups of water or other liquids throughout the day or foods with high water content, such as fruit, soups, milkshakes, and smoothies.
Keep in mind the person may not remember when or if he or she ate. Consider serving several small breakfast for example.