Supporting someone to have a positive mealtime experience can significantly affect a person’s enjoyment of food.
Where possible, eating should be sociable, fun and stimulating. Our Eating as we age guide has lots of ideas and suggestions.
Here are our top ten tips for supporting older people to dine with dignity.
- The most important meal of the day
Preserving independence is so important for someone living with dementia, and where better to start than at the breakfast table? Make sure all items are accessible, pour milk into small jugs and decant items such as butter, jam and marmalade into ramekins. You can then encourage your loved one to prepare food for themselves, if possible.
Throughout the day, give loved ones control over mealtimes by supporting them to pour their own gravy and custard from a jug, or to help themselves to their own vegetables from serving dishes.
- Time for tea
When making tea or coffee, assess whether someone is able to pour their own tea from the pot or cafetiere. For some, it might only be practical to add their own sugar, but anything that encourages independence is worthwhile.
- Take a different view
Make it easy for loved ones to continue making their own drinks and snacks. Take a new look at the kitchen and clear any clutter so mugs and tea bags, for example, can be found quickly.
- Keep it simple
Don’t overwhelm someone living with dementia with too much choice. Ask closed questions. For example, ‘would you prefer toast or porridge’, rather than ‘what would you like for breakfast’.
- Specialist service
For those who find normal cutlery or crockery a challenge, specially-designed items can be purchased from specialist suppliers. Plates should have some depth to them to make it easier to keep food on the plate and help move the food around.
- Compare and contrast
Use a table cloth that contrasts with the plates. Blue or bright yellow plates work best for people living with dementia. The plate stands out from a white tablecloth and the food does too, as there are very few foods in these colours.
- Watch the temperature
Some people living with dementia will lose the ability to judge the temperature of their food. As a carer, make sure the food isn’t too hot.
- Background noise
The Alzheimer’s Society explains that a noisy background can be distracting for someone living with dementia. The eating environment should be calm and relaxing.
- Make it social
Sit, eat and talk with loved ones as they dine. This will encourage them to stay seated for longer and to continue to eat or snack.
Do you want to find out more?
Download our Eating as we age guide via the button below and take a closer look at how you or how your loved one can be supported to eat well and stay healthy and hydrated. You can also share your experiences with us on twitter #careukeat