Mealtimes can become difficult as dementia progresses. It is not uncommon for the person to either eat more because they have forgotten that they have eaten earlier, or stop eating because they do not remember to eat at all. You may experience that they eat with their fingers instead of using utensils and make a lot of mess. This can be irritating and embarrassing for you as a caregiver, as well as for the person with dementia. It is possible to help the person enjoy meals, keep a healthy diet and maintain a sense of independence a bit longer.
Serve meals in quiet surroundings.
People with dementia can get distracted easily. Serve meals away from distractions such as television, radio or a lot of noise from roads, other people etc.
Set the table without distractions.
Flowers and fruit arrangements look nice but can confuse or distract the person with dementia. Only place plates and utensils needed for the meal on the table to avoid confusion on what to use when eating. Use specially designed utensils and non-breakable plates and cups when it is appropriate.
Avoid patterns on plates, tablecloths and placemats.
People with dementia may have a hard time to distinguish food from the plate or the plate from the table due to changes in visual and spatial abilities. Using a white plate with a placemat with colors can help distinguish the plate from the table and the food from the plate.
Serve the food ready on a plate instead of self-service.
Having to choose what to eat can be confusing and food served on a plate can help. If necessary, help cut the meal into bite-sized pieces, let the person use a spoon instead of fork and provide easily consumed food.
Offer one dish at a time.
Too many different dishes at once may be overwhelming and confusing.
Keep in mind that food preferences may change.
Sometimes the person can develop new food preferences or reject foods that they used to like.
Make mealtimes a pleasant experience.
Eat together and give the person plenty of time to finish.
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