Mealtime and Caregiving
Preparing meals for a loved one with dementia can be difficult. Dementia, or any other related degenerative neurological disorders, often makes hunger cues different and appetites unpredictable. Additionally, these kinds of disorders negatively impact motor skills and other physical abilities people rely on to live life normally. For example, your loved one may lose their ability to reason, to explain changes in their appetite, to remember the purposes of eating utensils, and so on. This can be challenging for family caregivers to manage as it introduces several challenges, like communicating differently, making sure your loved one eats, and responding to new behaviors.
At the end of the day, it is important that your loved one gets the nutrition they need. In this blog we will go over methods that will help ensure your loved one gets the meals they need. First, we will not what you should not do.
The following tips and tricks have been sourced from AARP, which provides extensive resources.
What doesn’t work
- Pleading or nagging your loved one for them to eat
- Leaving meals in front of your loved one even if when they indicate they are not interested in eating
What does work
Make sure food is nutritious
- Bring your loved one in to the kitchen when you cook
- Emphasize nutrients, like using protein powder, puréed vegetables used in things like pumpkin bread or other baked goods.
- Do not use empty calories, like processed foods, sugars, high fructose corn syrup, etc.
- Food that requires a lot of chewing should be cut into small pieces.
- Food should be as nutritious as possible.
How to help your loved one feel comfortable
- If your loved one is not able to use utensils, then make food that can be eaten with hands, like chicken strips, burgers, and some vegetables that can be handled using hands.
- Make sure your loved one is in a calm environment free of distractions. Many times, busy, loud, and distracting environments can frighten and agitate those with dementia, making mealtime impossible.
- Use dishware and utensils designed for people with dementia. For example cups and utensils can be designed with special handles to help prevent food from falling on the floor or onto their lap.
- Use solid tablecloths and make sure the plate contrasts with the color of the table cloth. This can help your loved one recognize the plate and not get confused
- Use durable plates and cups in case accidents happen
- Be flexible about meal times. If your loved one is not ready to eat at normal eating times, but they are ready to eat at later times, then this is better than not eating at all.
Keep track of your loved one’s habits
Note what works and what does not work for your loved one. Every person experiences dementia differently and only you know your loved one best. So, it is advised to keep track of the times your loved one preferred to eat, how much they ate, what kinds of foods they ate, and so on. Not only will this help you make decisions in the future, but it can help you identify patterns so you can make predictions so you can be better prepared.
These are just some tips to keep in mind to make sure your loved one is well-nourished. If you want more information, you can visit the AARP website (linked above) or give us a call at 888-285-0093. Also, visit our website for more blogs and caregiving-related information.