15th to the 21st of May is Dementia Awareness Week, Home Instead Sheffield has put together a list of top tips on how you can have successful meal times with you loved one living with Dementia.
Know their favourite- your loved one may find comfort and security in familiarity. Offering 2 choices of the foods which your loved one enjoyed in the past is the best way of creating choice. Keep routines in place such as their favourite place at the table, playing music in the background etc. anything you think will help. Don’t crowd the table with cutlery and glassware, this could cause your loved one to become overwhelmed, the same applies to their food on the plate, starting with a few items on their plate and progressively adding to it could be the best solution for your loved one.
Ensure their dignity is respected- don’t make the mistake that your loved one no longer appreciates a fine dining experience. If your loved one liked certain things for an evening meal, carry these on, this will make their meal time more aesthetically pleasing. Take time to make eye contact with your loved one and cut their food before it is served to prevent them feeling embarrassed by needing additional assistance.
Adapt the environment accordingly- flexibility and creativity helps promote a positive meal time experience. Dementia may cause difficulties in object recognition, colour perception and special awareness, therefore using a table cloth that contrasts with the plate colour will help your loved one living with Dementia identify their food much easier.
Independence- Even when memory begins to fade, much of a person’s procedural memory remains. If you think your loved one is capable, encourage him or her to plan the menu, help with food preparation or set the table. These are familiar routines, and as long as he or she still obtains satisfaction in completing tasks, it’s important to continue to invite their help.
Modifications- As your loved ones dining skills decline, be prepared to make modifications in order to continue their independence. For loved ones who now struggle with utensils, meals can be changed to finger food or food can be served in wraps or as a sandwich.
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