When most people think of dementia, they think of memory issues and difficulty communicating. But one of the lesser known difficulties that can accompany Alzheimer’s or dementia is difficulty with eating and swallowing. Last week, we discussed some of the challenges a person with dementia may face as the disease progresses. Today, we’ll provide you with three tips help make mealtime easier for you and your loved one:
- Keep the environment calm. People with dementia can be easily distracted and upset which can make mealtime difficult. When the person is eating, turn off the television and close the door to the room if there is noisy activity outside. Take items off the table that may be distracting. In addition, serving items one at a time can help keep a person with dementia focused on the meal.
- Make food look as appealing as possible. If the texture of a food has been altered (e.g. pureed to be easier to swallow), it can look very unappealing. Experiment with garnishes, scoop sizes and general presentation. For example, pureed vegetables may loop more appetizing in a mug rather than scooped onto a plate.
- Alternating sips of liquid between bites of food can help clear the mouth between bites (the thickness of the liquid will depend on the person’s prescribed dietary level). An extra swallow between mouthfuls can also be helpful. If the person is being fed instead of feeding themselves, make sure to sit down and feed at eye contact. Feeding while standing can cause the person’s head to tilt back and make choking more likely.
Check in with us again next week when we’ll discuss more strategies to help a person with dementia-related dysphagia stay safe and make mealtime easier.
Are you a caregiver for someone with dementia? What challenges have you faced during mealtime and how have you and your family overcome them? Share your story in the comments section below!
For information on our New York based Speech-Language Pathology services, please call Speech Associates of New York today at (212) 308-7725 or visit our website at http://www.speechassociatesofny.com and find out how our team of professionally trained and certified speech-language pathologists can help!
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