Alzheimer’s or dementia residents in memory care often eat less than they used to. Sometimes they lose interest in their foods because of the loss of taste, inability to smell, or even thinking they have already eaten. Some say that medications can affect appetite, but others say it is due to medical problems with chewing, swallowing, or digesting food.
As dementia progresses, the ability or the want to eat tends to get worse. Ensuring your loved one living with dementia eats a nutritious meal, or eats enough, can become a real issue.
We have compiled a list of 8 practical tips for helping someone with dementia eat more in memory care.
#1 Color Matters
Color naturally stimulates appetite in all people, but for dementia patients, it helps to distinguish the contrast between the food and the plate. Dementia patients often experience weight loss because they have lost the ability to determine the difference between colors. Therefore they cannot identify light-colored food against light-colored plates.
Providing them with plates and cups in a bright color gives high contrast to the food and drink and can significantly increase their intake.
#2 Make Eating Easier
At some stage, eating becomes an issue because utensils can also become more challenging to manipulate. Consider providing finger foods to help them eat more frequently, little and often.
Some examples include:
- Fruits: berries, sliced bananas, and grapes are great examples and have strong, contrasting colors.
- Nuts: almonds and brazil nuts are protein-packed and contain essential fats.
- Bite-size protein: fish or chicken fingers.
- Vegetables: colorful vegetable tray with healthy dips like hummus or herbed yogurt.
Making your loved ones feel comfortable at the table helps them focus on the food. Sit in front of them, make eye contact, and smile. Start eating without talking and wait for them to follow your lead. Patience is essential, and it may take practice before it starts working.
#3 Nutrition Dense Foods
The following foods are packed with vitamins and nutrients that improve cognition and boost brain cells in older adults. They help block free radicals and inflammation, help protect against age-related memory loss, and improve mood:
- Leafy Greens – Spinach, kale, and Swiss chard
- Vegetables – Broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, and Brussel sprouts
- Berries – Raspberries, blueberries, and Cherries
- Dark Chocolate – The darker the chocolate, the better for you
- Fish – three or more weekly servings of omega-3 fatty fish
- Nuts – Peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, and pecans
- Seeds – sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flaxseeds
- Spices – cinnamon, sage, turmeric
#4 Patience First
Trying to convince someone living with dementia that they must eat is counterproductive. Explaining why is also detrimental.
Look at yourself as a food guide. Your role as the official food guide is to show this person how to eat each bite. Use firm eye contact and a big friendly smile. They will watch you and slowly copy you. If you don’t show them a demonstration, how will they learn?
#5 Experiment with Arranging the Food
Experiment with different sizes, textures, and food flavors to see which your loved one responds to the best. Consider these tips:
- Add foods with varying colors
- Try smaller portions of food and fewer individual items on the plate.
- What foods did they enjoy in the past? Put that food right next to another food on the plate.
- Cut up the food into small pieces.
- Change the texture of the food – mash, boil, or bake.
#6 Praise the Food
Enjoying your meal encourages others around the table to dig in. As a family member, share your enjoyment and praise the food and how tasty it is. You can spark an interest in others and encourage them to try their food. Take the lead by eating first and giving that positive comment right away.
#7 Don’t Talk
People with Alzheimer’s and dementia are easily distracted. They can get confused if you try to get them to multi-task. Stop talking with them while you are eating.
Small comments about the food can be beneficial, but not too much. Ensure that they can focus on the task at hand, one thing at a time.
#8 Small Portions
If you can only get your loved one to eat small amounts, there is no problem as long as this is at regular periods throughout the day. Find what works best for you.
Visit our Memory Care Residence in Glendale
Our memory care community in Glendale, AZ, understands that as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease progress, it gets more challenging to ensure your loved one gets proper nutrition and the right level of care. At Terra Pointe Memory Care in Glendale, we are specially trained in all types of dementia care and respite care. We provide a secure environment and high-quality care services for your loved one.