Caregiver Activity: How to Encourage Healthy Eating

Mealtimes are a time for family and friends to spend time with one anther and share. However, when caring for someone with dementia, mealtimes can become stressful for the person with dementia and their caregiver. A person with dementia may find eating difficult. Loss of appetite, loss of memory and problems with judgment can cause problems with food, eating, and nutrition. People with Alzheimer’s may become easily distracted by their surroundings or may eventually lose the ability to chew and swallow.  However, there are ways to help the person with dementia maintain a healthy diet and ease your burden.

Loss of appetite: This can be caused by simply forgetting how to chew and swallow. However, other reasons for apparent loss of appetite may include ill-fitting dentures, insufficient physical activity and being embarrassed by difficulties eating.

Things to try:

  • Check with their doctor to make sure there are no treatable causes for loss of appetite such as depression or another acute illness.
  • Offer meals at regular times each day.
  • Encourage physical activity.
  • Provide balanced meals to avoid constipation.
  • Try a small glass of juice or other favorite drink to wet the person’s appetite.
  • Offer ice cream or milkshakes.
  • Try to prepare food in familiar ways, especially food that are favorites.
  • Encourage the person to eat all or most of one food before moving on to the next. Some people can become confused when tastes and textures change.
  • Try to make mealtime simple, relaxed, and calm.
  • Consult a doctor if the person with dementia experiences significant weight loss or about vitamin supplements.
  • Finally, as a caregiver make sure that you are eating a well-balanced diet.

Overeating: Some people with dementia may overeat or even develop an insatiable appetite.

Things to try:

  • Try five to six small meals each day.
  • Have low-calorie snacks available, such as apples or carrots.
  • Consider whether other activities-such as walks or increased socialization may help.
  • Lock some foods away, if necessary.
  • Leave healthy snacks foods on the table where they are easily visible.

At the table: Behavior such as pouring a glass of juice into a bowl of soup or eating dessert with a knife are signs that a person with dementia is having difficulty at the dinner table.

Things to try:

  • Serve one course at a time and remove other distracting items from the table such as cutlery, glasses or table decorations.
  • Use plain plates that are a contrasting color to the table or tablecloth.
  • Allow plenty of time to eat.
  • Keep noise or activity in the environment to a minimum.
  • Make sure there is adequate lighting.
  • Serve food that is familiar to the person.
  • Eat with the person with dementia so that they can follow or lead or mimic your motions.
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