Enjoying a delicious meal is something many of us look forward to several times each day. We enjoy the food and the fellowship of mealtime. We look forward to relaxing over a yummy meal that excites most of our senses. Having dementia shouldn’t come between you and that delicious meal. Here are five tips that may help you or a loved one who is eating with dementia.
Consider appetizer-like foods: Many times numerous utensils can get confusing and mealtime can feel more like an obstacle course than a time to enjoy nourishment. Try only serving foods that can be eaten with your hands. Foods like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, granola bars, thinly sliced veggies, berries and cut-up fruit, ham and cheese roll-ups and waffles.
Place all foods and beverages within reach: Why do we arrange our food on such huge placemats and trays? Even the most flexible and agile person can have difficulty reaching for their beverage glass at some restaurants. Make mealtime simpler by placing everything close to the plate so the food is the focus, not the sport of trying to catch/reach the food.
Don’t forget to cue: If you are assisting someone with dementia, try cueing them during mealtime. Easy, quick and polite cues like: “Martha, take a bite of that yummy chicken,” or “Take a drink now” can go a long way to ensuring that all food is eaten and the task of eating is the primary focus of the meal.
Don’t forget to get in your “eating pose”: Have you noticed the number of people who slouch when they eat? Mealtime is much easier and more enjoyable when we can get in the 90-90-90 pose. This means that your chin is 90 degrees from your torso, your hips are bent (as closely to) 90 degrees and your knees and angles are at 90 degrees. You’d be amazed at the impact this has on safe and comfortable dining.
Be patient, avoid frustration and be respectful: Did you know most of us should take at least 30 minutes to enjoy our meal? Americans have gotten into rushing through meals. Being patient and focused on the event of eating will avoid frustration for everyone involved. Also, if you are assisting others with eating, try the hand-over-hand technique. This is just as it sounds, you place your hand over the hand of the person you are assisting, and help them with cutting, scooping and delivering the food to their mouth. This technique is simple and it helps preserve (or even improve) the other person’s self-feeding ability.
For more techniques and guidance about eating and healthy aging, visit 3 Square Meals Blog at www.tiny.cc/3squares or follow us on Twitter at @amandasholliday. Happy Eating!
References: Eating Matters: A Training Manual for Feeding Assistants. CD-HCS 2003.