For many families who have senior loved ones with dementia, mealtimes are one of the most challenging times of day. Some seniors might refuse to eat at all, while others may get frustrated or overwhelmed whenever they try to eat. There are a few things you can do to address this issue and ensure your loved one gets enough nutrition. Here are some tips to make mealtimes easier while managing the challenges of dementia.
Pick the Right Plate Color
Seniors with dementia tend to have difficulty distinguishing among colors and seeing subtle changes in light and darkness, which can make food look unappealing or odd to the eyes. It’s important to think carefully about how a meal looks. Arrange it on a plate with an inviting shade of red, orange, or yellow, and make sure the plate is significantly lighter or darker than the food itself.
Serve Finger Foods
Aging adults with dementia are usually still interested in retaining independence and doing things themselves, but it can be frustrating to try to handle utensils. To solve this issue, serve bite-sized foods your loved one can pick up and put in his or her mouth without having to bite or cut anything. Good options include nuts, berries, small vegetable slices, chicken nuggets, and small sandwiches.
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Sit Down and Eat Together
A lot of seniors with dementia find it easier to do something when they can follow someone else’s example. Try making eye contact with your loved one and making slow, deliberate movements to encourage him or her to follow your lead. Eating together is also a good idea because viewing someone else eating naturally stimulates the appetite.
Create a Lot of Small Snacks
Since seniors with dementia tend to have reduced appetites, they may balk at the idea of sitting down to eat massive meals. Some caregivers find it easier to help their loved ones get enough nutrition when they move to snacking schedules instead, which involves preparing a lot of smaller meals to munch on throughout the day.
Eating issues in the advanced stages of dementia can make caring for aging adults increasingly challenging. One of the most challenging tasks of helping an elderly relative age in place safely and comfortably is researching agencies that provide elder care. Austin, TX, families can turn to Home Care Assistance for reliable, high-quality in-home care for aging adults. We offer 24-hour live-in care for seniors who require extensive assistance, and we also offer respite care for family caregivers who need a break from their caregiving duties.
Be Flexible and Remain Patient
Your attitude can make a huge difference in your loved one’s mealtime mood. Avoid getting mad or snapping at your loved one, because you don’t want him or her to associate eating with scary emotions. Instead, be positive and try to encourage eating by talking about how good the food is. It’s also important to avoid stubbornly insisting that your loved one eat a certain food. You need to be willing to switch things up and try different meals if your loved one suddenly develops a new like or dislike. Remember it’s more important for your loved one to eat than for you to select an idealized, perfect meal plan.
Even when families have the best intentions, caring for a senior loved one with dementia can be challenging. Fortunately, Home Care Assistance is here to help. We are a leading provider of dementia care. Austin families can take advantage of our flexible and customizable care plans, and our caregivers always stay up to date on the latest developments in senior care. To learn more about our reliable, compassionate in-home dementia care services, contact us at (512) 623-7800 today.