For seniors who have dementia, eating can be a complicated and confusing process. As the disorder progresses, they might forget how to use cutlery or completely lose interest in eating, which could result in secondary health issues down the road. If you’re caring for a senior loved one who is having a difficult time with snacks and meals, you’ll need to come up with a comprehensive feeding plan that helps him or her get the necessary nutrition.
1. Create a Calm Environment
Many seniors with dementia are easily distracted, and they must be in calm environments when eating. In addition to turning off all televisions and radios, make sure the table setting is simple and free of clutter. The only items that should be on the table are glasses, plates, and any silverware your loved one is using. You might also want to invest in plates and bowls that don’t have any busy designs or bright colors.
2. Keep Meals Simple
As a general rule, make sure the foods your loved one eats are simple. Creating extravagant meals might seem like a fun idea, but complicated dishes could further distract your loved one. Each meal should only consist of a few basic dishes, and you should try to cut up all the food into bite-sized pieces before you put the plate in front of your loved one.
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3. Lead by Example
Your loved one will most likely look to you for assistance when he or she is confused, which is why you need to eat as many meals together as possible. When your loved one is overwhelmed by a dish or piece of silverware, you can show him or her exactly what to do. Some seniors with dementia respond very well to verbal instructions, but many prefer to mimic a loved one when they’re confused.
4. Praise the Food
Complete disinterest in food is a common problem among those who have dementia, and you need to make each plate as appealing as possible. Proclaiming how delicious the food is after every few bites could make your loved one more likely to try the meal independently. You can also mention how your loved one used to love that food or comment on how attractive the colors are.
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5. Try Smaller Meals
Trying to finish a larger meal might be nearly impossible in the later stages of this disease. Instead of preparing three big meals per day, offer five or six small snacks and dishes. Providing smaller dishes may be especially beneficial if you can’t get your loved one to focus on a single task for more than a few minutes.
6. Offer Plenty of Treats
Sticking to a nutritious diet is vital to a senior’s health, but there may come a point where your loved one no longer has an appetite. If he or she has difficulty eating enough calories, you might need to supplement the healthy meals with less healthy treats. Foods such as sweetened protein shakes and energy bars are great options for seniors with dementia who are chronically underweight.
Even when families have the best intentions, caring for a senior loved one with dementia can be challenging. Fortunately, Home Care Assistance is here to help. We are a leading provider of dementia care. Boca Raton families can take advantage of our flexible and customizable care plans, and our caregivers always stay up to date on the latest developments in senior care. Reach out to us at Home Care Assistance if you need compassionate, professional care for your loved one. Call one of our dedicated Care Managers today at (561) 826.9282 to learn about the high quality of our in-home dementia care services.