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:
Opportunities for socialization
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.