Successful Meals With Alzheimer’s

Those of us who’ve provided care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease know about the challenges of maintaining proper nutrition — let alone getting through a traditional sit-down meal. In response, many give up on getting together around the table, opting for simple hand-held snacks or takeout. But with some planning, sit-down, table meals can be an invaluable daily source of personal connection and positive reinforcement. A few simple principles can help you

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make mealtime more practical and less stressful for you and your loved one:

  • As much as possible, limit noise and other distractions in the dining area. Try to provide a calm setting free of unexpected interruptions.
  • Depending on your loved one’s cognitive abilities, promote independence by providing some degree of food choice.
  • If your loved one has difficulty with standard flatware, a wide range of special utensils can help.
  • Simplify presentation. Remove unnecessary table items to minimize confusion. Solid-colored placemats and dishes may help your loved one focus on eating. Don’t pressure. Impatient prodding can make your loved one even less eager to dig in. Demonstrate successful eating and provide gentle encouragement.

Above all, be flexible when a meal doesn’t go as you’d hoped. Just as young children’s mealtime capabilities change over time, so will your loved one’s. For example, you may need to cut food into bite-size pieces, either now or down the road. Always be alert to chewing and swallowing problems, as well as major changes in appetite, which may signify significant health changes. Learn more about Alzheimer’s-related eating issues.