Patients suffering from dementia often experience a number of difficulties during mealtimes. Some patients may become confused or overwhelmed by meal choices, while others may simply forget to eat or have physical restrictions that prevent them from being able to use certain utensils. Fortunately, there are some things you can do in your hospital to create more dementia-friendly mealtimes that ensure all your patients are getting the nutrition they need as well as enjoying a positive experience.
Create the Right Atmosphere
For patients with dementia, nothing feels as though it should. What once was their favorite food may now be something unrecognizable, and this can create a great deal of uneasiness. Being patient and creating the right mealtime atmosphere can go a long way in reducing a patient’s stress and encouraging their appetite.
- Keep things simple and limit distractions. Allow your patient to eat in the peace and quiet, and encourage them to take things slow. Avoid place setting decorations and eating in front of the TV. You want your patients to be fully focused on their meals during mealtimes, not everything else in the room.
- Use bright contrasting colors in your place settings to help patients with dementia distinguish each selection. Avoid complex patterns or any non-food items that may distract your patient from their meal.
- Only provide the tools needed for that meal – if they are eating mashed potatoes, they likely don’t need a knife. You can also invest in special lightweight cutlery, non-slip mats, lipped plates and bowls, and other tools to make mealtimes easier for patients with special needs.
- Limit the types and amount of food given to a patient at one time. Again, patients with dementia can become easily overwhelmed or lose their appetite if confronted with too much at once – especially if they cannot remember the last time they ate.
Focus on the Food
Patients with dementia might not eat as much as other patients, which means paying close attention to what and how much they eat is important for sustaining their long-term health. Simply delivering them meals that are tailor-made to meet their unique nutritional requirements isn’t enough; you need to make sure they actually eat what is in front of them.
- If your hospital allows patients to choose when they wish to eat, encourage your patients with dementia to be more independent about when they enjoy their meals. Allowing them to have a little more control will help them get used to eating at regularly scheduled times, when they are most hungry.
- Choose foods that are filled with vibrant color. Colorful foods draw the eye, and are more enticing for those who may not have strong appetites. Colorful foods can also help patients visually distinguish what they are eating, which can improve their confidence and result in them eating more than they normally might.
- Be wary of everything’s temperature. Patients with dementia may not be able to gauge temperature the way most people do, so ensuring that foods and drinks are safe to consume immediately is important to making sure the patient consumes more.
Encouraging independence is important, but so is providing support. Patients with dementia may prefer to eat with another person for social reasons, or you may even notice that a patient will study the way another person moves or eats and adapt to “copy” those movements. Let your patients be independent, but be there for them. Let them miss a bite here or make a mess there, but be sure to reassure them that everything is okay. A little patience and support will go a long way. Call 629.777.8989, or fill in the free consultation form in the sidebar, to learn more about how our software can positively impact the lives of the patients and visitors you service every day.