One of the joys of caring for a senior loved one is preparing a favorite meal and seeing how much pleasure it can provide. When a senior is progressing through dementia, however, mealtimes can change dramatically. More than 80% of seniors with dementia experience some type of dementia-related appetite loss or problem: changes in how food tastes or smells, swallowing problems, or forgetting how to use utensils or chew food properly, for instance.
Loss of appetite for someone with dementia can be especially difficult to manage. It’s important to find ways to encourage the person to get the nutrition they need, without pushing or causing distress. Our dementia care team recommends trying the following:
Exercise patience. Allow plenty of time for each meal so the person never feels rushed. Rather than a typical breakfast plate loaded with eggs, bacon, and toast, serve just one food at a time, explaining what the food is as you present it. “Here are some scrambled eggs with cheese, the way Grandma used to make them.” If the eggs aren’t of interest, wait a bit, and then try the next food. “How about some wheat toast with jelly?”
Contrast colors. Visual acuity can diminish as dementia progresses, making it difficult to see what’s being served. Rather than serving oatmeal in a white bowl on a cream-colored tablecloth, use contrasting colors. Something as simple as placing the oatmeal in a bright blue bowl will help it stand out and can provide the added benefit of making food look more appealing as well.
Use adaptive tools. The person may struggle with the use of conventional silverware, or may be experiencing tremors or other difficulties that make it challenging to self-feed. There are a variety of adaptive tools that may be easier to manage and allow the individual to continue to maintain independence at mealtimes.
Sharing meals together whenever possible may also help. Seeing you eat can provide the prompt needed for them to do the same, and it’s always more enjoyable to eat with a friend.
Amy’s Helping Hands’ caregivers are skilled in creative approaches to dementia care, and are here for you with as much or as little support as needed. Call us at 519-915-4370 to find out more about how we can help.