Hints & Tips – Dementia
Dementia brings many different challenges. You can find here the advice you need to understand, overcome the challenges and improve the chances of success.
To help people with Dementia recognise foods and concentrate throughout a meal these ideas can be used:
- Use pictures to explain what the food is. These don’t just have to be pictures of the dishes being offered. The pictures can include those of animals, fish, fruit and vegetables, as well as raw ingredients.
- Ensure the crockery being used highlights the food on offer. Sometimes the colour of plates and bowls can disguise the food and it may be missed. Equally, use a contrasting coloured table cloth so that the meal stands out.
- If appropriate, make sure the person about to eat has the correct glasses so that they can see clearly.
- Finger foods and smaller portions can be used to shorten the length of time someone has to concentrate. Ensure you remind people to eat more regularly during the day to compensate for the smaller portions.
- Finger foods are also useful as they can be eaten even if someone no longer recognises cutlery or other implements.
- During the meal, prompt the person you are helping to eat more. Never assume they have finished just because they have stopped eating.
Someone with Dementia may find it very difficult to get food into their mouths to eat. It could be that it is using cutlery and glassware that is difficult but could also be that they cannot coordinate opening their mouths to process the food or drink. The following ideas will help in these cases:
- Food can be cut up into manageable pieces
- Modified cutlery and glassware can be used to make handling items easier
- Finger foods can be used where someone has dexterity but cannot use cutlery
- If someone can hold cups and cutlery you can help them by guiding them to their mouths. If they cannot hold the utensils then let them hold your wrist while you help them eat and drink.
- Speak with an Occupational Therapist about modified cutlery, plates and cups that will help
If motor abilities are affecting the ability to chew or swallow follow our links to Difficulties Swallowing for more advice about Dysphagia.
The behaviour of someone with Dementia can seem very out of character. Try these tips to help keep mealtimes calm and increase what is eaten:
- Ensure there is plenty of time for mealtimes and allow them to take as long as they need. Food may need to be reheated
- Make sure they are comfortable in their eating environment and set it out as they would like
- If appropriate, make sure they are sitting with people they get on with
- Reassure them of any anxieties they may be having
- Understand their preferences and adhere to their wishes
When Dementia reduces the senses it is important to help, check and remind the person of basic needs:
- Check the temperature of food so that it is not too hot when being eaten.
- When smell is affected, talk about the food and drink to reminisce, this will improve someone’s ability to process what is going to be ingested.
- Continue to prompt someone during a meal. Sometimes concentration is lost to the task at hand and will need to be reminded many times. Be positive with any motivation.
- Remind people to drink, never assume an empty mug means it has been drunk. Keep reminding them, 1.5 to 2 litres of fluids should be drunk a day.