Parent With Dementia Help With Eating

Eating and drinking are universal activities, but they take on a different dimension when considering those with dementia. Today, we'll discuss how we can adapt basic self-care tasks to turn them into meaningful activities, focusing primarily on eating and drinking.

The Essence of Eating & Drinking

At its core, the act of eating and drinking helps maintain involvement in basic self-care tasks. It provides:

  1. Cognitive stimulation

  2. Maintained abilities

  3. Opportunities for socialization

  4. Enhancement of range of motion, strength, and coordination

Setting the Stage for Meal Times

To create a conducive environment for those with dementia:

  • Use familiar dining items and utensils suitable for the meal

  • Set up the environment with all needed items beforehand

  • Option for quiet, focused settings, free from background noises like TV or other distractions

Eating and Drinking Through Dementia's Phases

1. Early Stage:

Understanding and Independence: Patients can usually understand routines, making them capable of initiating their own meals.

Minor Hiccups: There might be issues with quality or minor struggles like opening unfamiliar items or containers.

Preferences: A resistance to diet changes might appear.

Social Aspects: They can converse between meal courses but might be more focused during meals.

Quick Tips: Cue the person in unfamiliar situations, eat without conversation distractions, and be ready to assist with tricky food containers.

2. Middle Stage:

Cues and Assistance: Regular verbal or tactile cues become necessary to bring them to meals. They might require assistance in using utensils.

Attention to Detail: They may overlook details, such as spilled food, and may become self-absorbed, hindering social engagement.

Safety Measures: Ensuring they don't burn themselves or eat too fast is crucial.

Quick Tips: Make mealtimes multi-sensory, use contrasting plates for better food visibility, and offer one food item at a time. Keep an eye on their rate of consumption.

3. Later Stage:

The Enjoyment Factor: Though they might not understand the feeding activity, they can still relish eating.

Hands-On Approach: They'd likely require direct assistance, from being brought to the table to being hand-fed.

Simplicity: Simple foods, especially finger foods, can be a blessing. Also, maintaining food accessibility throughout the day can help in consistent consumption.

Quick Tips: Constant supervision is essential. Offering food during their best meal times, ensuring they aren't losing weight, and providing frequent, smaller meals can be beneficial.


As dementia progresses, the simple act of eating and drinking evolves, requiring adaptive strategies to ensure the individual's well-being. Through understanding, patience, and proactive care, we can make mealtimes a nurturing, meaningful experience for our loved ones with dementia.

Let me know in the comments below if you have questions about dementia that you need answered.

If you would like more information on how to help a parent living with dementia, join our next free workshop here.

Read More:

Why Having Your Parent With Dementia Help With Their Grooming Is Good For Them

Why Having Your Parent With Dementia Help With Their Toileting Is Good For Them

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About the author

“Think Different” Dementia’s owner, Lizette Cloete, OTR/L graduated as an Occupational Therapist from the University of Pretoria in South Africa in 1992. Lizette has almost 30 years of experience as an Occupational Therapist in a variety of settings, the latest being in the home health environment. She enjoys teaching on the topic of dementia, most recently presenting at a national conference on the topic “Dementia Made Simple”.

Disclaimer: These blogs, videos and any work done by Lizette Cloete OT, as a Member of Think Different Dementia, LLC, is given only as educational content and consulting work. This does not create an Occupational Therapist-Patient Relationship. The educational content and consulting work performed should not be considered medical treatment as an Occupational Therapist. The consulting work does not take the place of medical work normally performed by a licensed Occupational Therapist. Please consult a licensed Occupational Therapist for medical advice.

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