20 Eating Tips For Persons With Dementia

20 Eating Tips For Persons With Dementia

Posted on January 26, 2015 by ElderCare Resources in Activities of Daily Living, Blog, Caregiver Education, Dementia Care

Activities of daily living with dementia, lets address eating…

By Diane Carbo

Eating is one of the greatest pleasures of life. It’s one of the ADLs (activities of daily living) that most of us take for granted. Your family member with dementia, even from the earliest stages, may show some problems with diet. Though they can eat without assistance in the early stages of dementia, they may not eat nutritiously. Some may eat the same foods continuously, or begin eating less or more than usual. Some who suffer from different types of dementia will eat a lot of certain kinds of foods, to the exclusion of most anything else.

Advancing dementia, is, of course, not the only thing that can interfere with an individuals eating habits, or other ADLs, for that matter. These conditions should be addressed with your health care provider in addition to the dementia.

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Some other possible causes of poor eating habits include:

  • Infection
  • Brain damage not related to dementia
  • Poor oral care/hygiene
  • Missing teeth/dentures
  • Mouth pain or discomfort
  • Medication side effects
  • Not feeling hungry
  • Pain
  • Visual changes
  • Chronic illness
  • Psychological factors, such as: too much noise, change in routines, being bored, feeling depressed, feeling rushed, responding to the moods of others

More on Activities of Daily Living with Dementia Tips : Eating …

These will help you encourage adequate intake and help assure a more pleasurable dining experience:

  1. Give good oral care so taste buds can be more sensitive to taste and so food in general tastes and smells better
  2. Make for a pleasant eating environment—control unpleasant odors, get rid of unpleasant looking objects, minimize noise, and make the dining area brightly lit
  3. Do not use plastic utensils; they can be broken if the person bites down too hard
  4. Wash their hands (or cue them to do it) before eating
  5. Don’t use table settings (table cloths, plates, napkins, place mats) with patterns; keep it simple
  6. More frequent, smaller meals might work for those who eat poorly or who want to eat constantly
  7. Be sure to offer enough liquids, as older people produce less saliva
  8. Your aging family member should have regular dental visits as needed
  9. Try feeding most of one food at a time. Avoid mixing foods, as the sudden or frequent change in the taste and textures of different foods can be confusing
  10. Use straws or cups with lids to make drinking easier
  11. Prepare food as needed: cut meats, open beverage containers, place silverware on the side of the dominant hand, butter the bread, etc.
  12. Small portions are usually best
  13. Glasses should not be completely filled with beverage—refilling smaller amounts is generally better
  14. Finger foods might be indicated for those who forget how to eat with silverware
  15. Encourage independence—sometimes the person will begin eating once you make the first move by lifting a spoonful of food to her mouth
  16. It is often easier to eat from a bowl than off a plate
  17. Liquids should not be too hot or too cold; if in doubt, check the temperature
  18. Omit foods that are hard to chew or swallow, such as nuts, popcorn, peanut butter, hard candy, raw vegetables, etc.
  19. Learn the Heimlich maneuver (now called the abdominal thrust and use it if choking on solid food occurs to the point of severely restricting air flow
  20. If direct assistance with feeding is required, use proper feeding techniques as needed when feeding a person with swallowing problems, such as:
    • proper positioning and body alignment
    • small bites
    • allow to chew thoroughly
    • offer sips of liquid frequently
    • cue or remind to swallow
    • feed from the tip of a spoon instead of from the side
    • watch for “pocketing” food (holding food in the cheeks)
    • alternate between feeding solids and liquids
    • check for food stored in the mouth
    • mechanical soft or pureed diet might be indicated
    • observe for choking or swallowing difficulties
    • be patient and give your family member time to chew and swallow

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Other thoughts…

Of course, following any of the activities of daily living with dementia tips and techniques requires the use of common sense. When you observe your family member having difficulty with eating, chewing or swallowing ,request a swallowing and feeding evaluation. This evaluation could assist you, the caregiver in learning the proper techniques on how to feed your family member properly. Depending on the type of dementia, the stage of dementia, and a hundred other variables, some of these pointers might not be appropriate for your family member.

Thank you to Caregiver Relief for the content of this article.