Eating & Mealtimes

  • Try to create a calm, distraction-free environment for meals.
  • Prepare foods with your loved one’s needs in mind. If your loved one has trouble chewing or swallowing, serve soft or bite-size foods.
  • Loss of appetite may signal depression, side effects from medication, difficulty swallowing, or another condition. Consult a physician.

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Mealtimes can be a time for social interaction and success for your loved one. Whenever possible, eat with your loved one to provide company and serve as a model of eating behavior.

Choices can cause confusion, so you may need to remove condiments and unneeded utensils from the table or serve one type of food at a time. People with dementia may forget to cut up or chew food properly, so cut up and season the food as necessary. Stick mostly with foods that have familiar flavors and smells.

Hoarding Food

A person with dementia may hide food. Leaving out a container of snacks or frequently reassuring your loved one that snacks are available should alleviate the problem.

Independence is much more important than neatness or manners. Serving finger foods, and providing other tools like a “sippy cup” or straw can help. Provide assistance only when necessary. If things get too messy, consider having your loved one wear a smock or large apron rather than a bib. Also switch to plastic placemats or tablecloths and serve meals in a room where the floor can be easily cleaned.

Note that mealtime confusion may be worsened by vision problems. Your loved one may not be able to see a glass, or a plate might blend in with the placemat. A patterned dish might even distract your loved one from eating.

Next Step: Learn how to minimize problems with bathing.

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