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Dementia Care: Tips for Mealtime Success

There are as many challenges as there are moments of joy when providing care and companionship to a loved one with dementia. Home caregivers may expect memory issues and a lack of motor skills, but a home caregiver might not expect issues with mealtime. If you are providing dementia care, here are a few things to look out for and tips for successful mealtimes with your loved ones.

How Does Dementia Affect Mealtime?

A person with late-stage dementia not only has trouble performing physical actions such as sitting, standing, or walking, they also experience a range of negative effects at mealtime

Late-stage dementia doesn't just affect the lower extremities. It also inhibits coordination and range of motion in the arms, making it hard for your loved one to feed themselves. It's a little-known fact, but Alzheimer's also causes visual disturbances, including a loss of clarity and an inability to process colors correctly. 

Memory issues may also affect your loved one's appetite. Because the disease erodes the brain's neural pathways, their brain might not be able to process hunger signals. This, coupled with a regiment of appetite-suppressing dementia medications, can cause your loved one to lose their appetite completely. 

Tips to Help Your Loved One Eat Better

Ensuring that your loved one eats a healthy diet is part of consistent senior care. Fortunately there are some simple strategies that home caregivers can put into place to help their loved one experience success at mealtime. 

Eliminate Distractions

With dementia, your loved one's neural pathways are always on overload. Excessive noise and other distractions such as television, radio, or loud conversation short-circuit an already over-taxed cognition. Try playing quiet instrumental music or engage your loved one in simple conversation instead.  

Use Adaptive Equipment

Maintaining independence is an important part of a person's well-being no matter their medical situation. There are many types of adaptive equipment that can help your loved one feed themselves independently at mealtime. Consider using weighted silverware, plate dividers, plate guards, and cups with handles and lids to assist your loved one.

High Contrast Place Settings

As seniors with dementia often have visual problems that aren't always apparent, color can help at mealtimes if used correctly. Home caregivers can help by providing place settings that are high-contrast from the surrounding table. For example, bright red plates against a light blue table cloth can prompt a person with dementia to eat more successfully. 

Serve One or Two Items at a Time

Dementia causes issues with processing new information. Serving too many items at once can clog neural pathways, causing your loved one to give up. This sacrifices vital nutrition that everyone needs. Serve no more than two meal items at once to help avoid additional anxiety. 

Be Patient, Be Present

For a person with Alzheimer's, mealtime takes longer due to a myriad of factors. The key to mealtime success is remaining patient while being there for your loved one. 

Set Your Loved One Up for Mealtime Success

If you are providing dementia care to your loved one, you know that life is full of little challenges punctuated by moments of joy, family, and togetherness. Senior Helpers of Des Plaines and the surrounding areas can help you promote those moments of joy with our Senior Gems dementia care program. To find out more, please contact us today.