5 Strategies for Feeding an Elderly Parent with Dementia

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Family caregivers often encounter mealtime challenges as their aging loved one’s dementia progresses. You can use these strategies to feed your parent so he or she always get the calories and nutrients needed for healthy functioning.

1. Plan Extra Time for Meals

Your loved one’s symptoms may cause him or her to take longer to finish a meal. For example, your loved one may try to get up and wander right after sitting down, and you may need additional time to gently coax him or her back to the table. Alternatively, your loved one may have difficulty using utensils and need extra time to continue to use them independently. Always try to plan for enough time to eat at each meal so you don’t feel rushed. Your parent will pick up on your relaxed attitude and be more likely to sit and eat.

People with dementia require extra time, attention, and care. If you’re the primary family caregiver for an elderly loved one and need additional assistance providing high-quality home care, Des Moines Home Care Assistance can help. We are a leading home care agency committed to changing the way seniors age.

2. Provide Prompts as Needed

Ideally, you or another caregiver should sit with your parent during meals. If your loved one seems confused or unsure of what to do, provide simple prompts that help him or her practice greater independence while eating. For instance, you might model moving the fork to your mouth until your parent picks up his or her own utensil. If necessary, you can even load the fork or spoon and place it in your loved one’s hand. If you provide verbal directions, keep them short and to the point to minimize confusion.

3. Always Check the Temperature of the Food You Serve

Seniors with dementia may not always be able to pick up on cues that their food is still too hot to eat. Make sure the temperature of the food is comfortable before sitting it in front of your loved one to reduce the possibility of burns in the mouth that could pose a further problem for eating. As you do, keep in mind that cold temperatures may also be off-putting to your loved one. Get to know your loved one’s preferred temperature range, and keep food within this range to make meals more palatable.

In Des Moines, home care providers can benefit aging adults in a variety of ways. From cooking nutritious meals to offering timely medication reminders, the dedicated caregivers at Home Care Assistance are available to help your elderly loved one 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

4. Keep Recipes Simple

Your favorite stew recipe may look like an ideal meal since it contains soft food that’s easier for your loved one to chew. However, recipes with mixed ingredients are sometimes off-putting to seniors with dementia who cannot tell what is in the dish. Your loved one may also reject a meal simply because the soup or casserole has one ingredient he or she doesn’t like. Try to prepare meals where each element is clearly identifiable so your loved one can feel in control of what he or she eats.

5. Know How to Manage Mealtime Conflicts

At times, conflicts will still arise no matter what you do to prevent them. For example, your loved one may refuse to eat because he or she insists it isn’t the right time, or he or she may eat very little due to frustration. Never try to force a meal on your loved one. Instead, offer another chance to eat a little later and supplement with nutritious snacks, such as a smoothie filled with fruits and vegetables.

Family caregivers may not have the experience or time to effectively care for a loved one with dementia. There are a variety of reasons to consider professional dementia care. Des Moines dementia caregivers are available 24/7 to help seniors maintain better cognitive health, and they can also assist with various tasks like medication reminders, transportation to medical appointments, and nutritious meal preparation. To learn about our home care plans, give us a call at (515) 264-2438 today.

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