Eating Ideas...for those with memory loss...
- Dishes with fancy patterns may be a source of visual confusion and distraction for your patient. Solid-color dishes contrasting with the color of the food being served may help.
- Offering an entire meal on a plate at the same time can be confusing and distracting. Try placing one food item at a time on the dish. Or use a separate plate for each food item. (Disposable plates save time and energy.)
- If you do place the entire meal on your patient's plate at one time, rotate the plate frequently. This will help your patient notice all the different foods on the plate.
- A diminished ability to taste different flavors may cause your patient to be distracted or uninterested in eating a meal if food has lost its appeal. Flavor enhancers can help. For example, chicken can be marinated with chicken broth to intensify taste and aroma, Strong flavors such as bacon and cheese added to soups and vegetables may also help.
What eating-related problems will I encounter as physical and mental abilities decline?
How can I help overcome these problems?
- Alzheimer patients develop visual difficulties. A strong contrast between the color of the plate and the food will allow the patient to see the food more easily. A solid-colored tablecloth that strongly contrasts with your dishes will also be helpful.
- Some patients forget how to use forks, knives, and spoons. They may begin to eat food with their fingers. If your patient has lost the ability to use eating utensils, consider new ways to make the food easier to hold. For example offer french toast sticks instead of full slices for breakfast. For other meals, try using chicken sticks or nuggets instead of large pieces of chicken, or fish sticks in place of fish fillets.
- Some patients experience tremors that may cause them to spill food frequently. Swivel spoons may be helpful.
- Plastic cups with sipping lids used for young children will help avoid spilled drinks.
- Some patients repeatedly drop food off their forks and spoons. To avoid food-soiled clothing, consider a washable, reusable adult-sized bib. Your patient may become upset at the prospect of wearing a bib. It may help if you are willing to set an example by also wearing one.
- Excessive drooling can be a problem. Try offering fruit nectar or juices in place of milk. Milk tends to promote drooling by increasing mucus production.
Using Finger Foods to Increase Intake and Prevent Weight Loss
Finger foods can be used to help the person with dementia maintain feeding independence and reduce the risk of weight loss. Individuals who are unable to hold or use utensils can continue to feed themselves using finger foods. Care is needed to ensure that the varieties of foods offered are nutritious, safe, and easy to handle. It is very important to find foods that a person likes. Experiment with cooking methods and serving styles. The table that follows offers suggestions on how meals can be adapted to support self-feeding and still offer a meal that reflects the food groups with the Food Guide Pyramid.
|Foods Needing Utensils|
Finger Food Substitutions
|scrambled eggs||hard boiled eggs (cut into wedges)|
|apple sauce||peach slices (canned or fresh)|
|mashed potatoes or rice||french fries or roasted potatoes (cut in wedges)|
|spaghetti||ravioli (dip into small dish of tomato sauce)|
|peas||peapods or whole green beans|
|meatloaf, sliced meat||meat sandwiches (cut into fingers for easy eating)|
|tomato slices||cherry tomatoes (cut in half)|
|ice cream, puddings||serve them in a flat-bottomed ice cream cone|
|oatmeal cereal||oatmeal cookies|
SOME HINTS WHEN SERVING FINGER FOODS:
- It is best to broaden one's view of socially acceptable finger foods
- Save time by using foods that are easy to prepare or ready made
- A bit of mess is O.K.; use "handy-wipes" and easy to clean clothes or large napkins
- Don't serve foods in liquid (e.g. drain the syrup from canned fruit)
- Finger foods can add calories when used as snacks and offered throughout the day
- A dipping bowl for sauces and gravy adds calories and flavor
- Don't leave milk or meat-based foods at room temperature for over 2 hours
- Don't limit diet only to finger foods
- Use your imagination when thinking up food ideas
Reminder: There are other ways to support self-feeding.
Occupational Therapist, Dietician or other health care provider can offer suggestions on special feeding devices and cueing (both verbal and physical.)