Improve meal times for someone with dementia

Uncategorized May 07, 2022

There are a lot of reasons why mealtime can be stressful when caring for your loved one with dementia. BUT it does not have to be a battle! Today I want to talk about my top 7 tips and tricks you can use to help reduce stress around meal times. At the end I am also going to provide some bonus tips around eating out so read until the end!  


If you would rather watch a video on this topic, click here.

Also just as a reminder Careblazer, I did a video a few years ago where I interviewed a nutritionist and we talked about how to get your LOWD to eat and drink healthier. In it we discussed several different things including the mediterranean diet and how to identify possible swallowing issues. Make sure to check that video here out for details. 


Ok, let’s get started.

Careblazer, I don’t need to tell you that caring for your LOWD is hard but when it comes to food, there are a few things you can do to make mealtime a little easier. All of the tips I am going to talk about today have to do with preparing and simplifying. 

1. Clean-up. This may sound like an odd thing to start with but one of the biggest frustrations I sometimes hear from Careblazers is that their LOWD is a messy eater. So consider clean-up before serving food. When I say this, I don’t necessarily mean changing what food you plan to serve because of the clean up time, although that is something else you could consider as well. Here I mean take some time to consider what things you can do ahead of time to make clean up easier. For example, consider buying plastic table cloths. This reduces clean up and time and can help to reduce any stress you may feel if your LOWD is a messy eater. Also consider dignity bibs. These are bibs that are designed to look more like regular clothing. For example, you can order dignity bibs that look like a scarf or, if you don’t want to purchase anything extra, consider taking an old shirt and creating your own. There are very simple directions for making these for both men and women that can be found if you simply google dignity bib.  

2. Dishes and utensils. In addition to considering clean up, consider what things you have control over that may help reduce frustration and mess in the first place. This may include looking at the plates and silverware you are using. Remember your LOWD may have some changes in their sight. You want to make sure that you do not have too many colors, designs, or patterns that may make it more difficult for them to see their food. Make sure whatever dishes you are using allow for your LOWD to easily see where the food is. Along with this, look at what silverware you are using. Do you have too many utensils out? Is this confusing to your LOWD? Are there other options you can explore using such as a soup mug that your LOWD can drink from rather than trying to spoon? Are there weighted utensils or high contrast color utensils you could try?

3. Reduce distractions. Distractions during mealtime can lead to frustration for a lot of reasons. For example, if the TV is on and your LOWD is eating while watching it, they may not eat as much, make more of a mess due to not paying attention, or take longer to eat resulting in food being cold and them not wanting to eat it. For these reasons, take a minute to turn off the TV, turn up the lights, and remove other items from the table that may lead to distraction. 

4. Eat together. Eating together is good for a lot of reasons. Not only does it ensure that you are able to see how much your LOWD is eating but it ensures you eat too! Further it provides the potential for socialization for your LOWD. Another reason this can be important is that it provides your LOWD a model of eating that encourages them to eat more and provides cues and prompts about how to eat the food being served. 

5. Elements of the food. Next Careblazer, pay attention to the elements of the food being served. How is the texture? Are there certain textures you know your LOWD does not like or has more trouble eating due to swallowing or dentition? How does the food look? Remember, if the food does not look appetizing your LOWD is not going to want to eat it any more than you will. Also, check the temperature of food ahead of time. Communication and reasoning may be difficult for your LOWD. For this reason, you want to make sure the food you have served is not too hot or too cold. They may not be able to reason through waiting for their food to cool or telling you that the food is not warm enough. 

6. Time. Careblazer, I am probably telling you something you already know with this one but allow enough time for your LOWD to eat. The coordination and time it takes for your LOWD to eat can be much longer than for you or I. If that is the case for your LOWD, if you have not allowed enough time for this, you are setting yourself up for failure before you even start. 

7. Dentition. If possible, make sure your LOWD has seen a dentist. Again, if they have pain, they may not be able to communicate that to you well and if that pain is dental pain, it can significantly impact how well they eat and any frustration or anger that may occur during meal times. If your LOWD does have dental concerns, ask the dentist or their physician for tips to make eating more enjoyable. 


Bonus tip: Eating out!

Most of the tips I have talked about today have to do with eating at home but what about going out to eat?

Again, preparation is the best way to set yourself up for success. Before deciding when or where to go, consider if there are days of the week or times that the restaurant will be slower. Remember you want to allow your LOWD enough time to eat AND you also want to reduce any wait time that may lead to frustration.

Consider making yourself and eat-out kit to take with you. This can help you to include many of the tips and tricks I discussed earlier. You may want to consider packing a dignity bib, wet naps, and any special utensils or plates. Depending on your situation, it may also be helpful to contact the restaurant ahead of time to ask if they would be willing to cut any large portions of food prior to bringing it to the table. Or you could consider asking the server to cut your food and your LOWD’s food when you order. By asking for both meals to be cut, you normalize this way of having the food served. 


Careblazer, mealtimes are one of those times that can lead to a lot of frustration BUT by taking the time to consider these tips and tricks ahead of time, you may be able to make mealtime with your LOWD an enjoyable experience. 


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