In the course of caring for a loved one, often mealtimes can become increasingly challenging and frustrating as diseases progress. Whether it is progression of dementia or other cognitive disabilities, or increasing physical constraints, there are countless factors that can lead to difficulties at mealtime. There are some important issues to bear in mind and address, as well as quite a few simple solutions that may be available to ease the frustrations and make meals easier on both the caregiver and the care receiver.
First thing to take into consideration is the root cause of the mealtime issue. Is there a cognitive decline affecting appetite or how food may appeal to the senses? Is there a side effect of medication on suppressing the appetite? Is it simply an oral issue such as poorly fitting dentures, poor oral hygiene, or weakened jaw muscles? Is there an issue with swallowing or digestion? Any underlying condition must be considered. Start with the most basic question and work back towards more complex issues.
Establish a routine that works for you and your loved one. Make sure you are serving a well-balanced and nutritious diet which helps the body function.
If there is no apparent physical inhibition, next consider the cognitive ability of your loved one, and how that may affect mealtime. Often the senses dull as dementia progresses so try stronger smells and tastes to stir the appetite. Also, dementia can affect your loved one’s ability to ‘know’ when it is time to eat, comprehend hunger, or even identify what food is. Be patient and use visual cues to help. Sit down and eat with your loved one. If confusion persists, try removing other distractions. Only give one utensil, and even try giving them one food item at a time. Remove other distractions such as TV, radio, telephones, and any other audio-visual distractions. Try single, brightly colored plates to avoid confusion because of patterns. Put a rubber band or two around a glass to help make it less slippery when grasping. Use a large handled spoon and plate guard if your loved one is having a difficult time getting the food to their mouth.
These are just a few ideas that may help make meals a little easier, but the biggest help, is to establish a routine that works for you and your loved one. Additionally, make sure you are serving a well-balanced and nutritious diet which helps the body function. Add in nutrition when you can, whether it is through vitamins, or liquid dietary supplements, to bolster the daily nutrient intake. Often high calorie snacks and treats can still be enjoyed by those with advanced dementia, and can be a source of additional nutrition if an individual is at risk of weight loss.
Centennial Adultcare Center has been serving nutritious, well-balanced meals for more than 22 years to all of our members. For more information and advice for what we can do to assist you and your loved one at mealtime, or throughout the day, call us at 615-383-3399 or contact us today.