In senior care, caregivers may be requested to assist their clients with meal preparations as well as feeding. When caring for clients with Dementia, meal time can be complicated and even frustrating.
In early stages of Dementia, your client may be able to eat a meal without issue. However, you may find that they need help with tasks that have multiple steps, such as assembling a sandwich or putting a salad together. To simplify complex tasks you can either schedule simpler meals or you can offer to help your client when these complicated tasks come up.
As Dementia progresses, you may find that your client becomes messy at meal time. Instead of eating their food, they will start to play with it or pick at it. The client may also become upset during meal time and refuse to eat their favourite food. It is therefore important to recognize these actions as signs that they are feeling frustrated not being able to perform or remember how to eat or drink. You may also find that they simply do not seem to be interested in the food on their plates or that they appear not to be hungry.
Suggestions for Senior Care Providers to Improve Eating Habits in Dementia Clients
In order to help Senior Care providers in Vancouver, South Surrey, Surrey, Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, and White Rock boost the appetite and interest in food in Dementia clients, the following tips may help. Consider visiting a nutritionist or dietician for help understanding what nutritional needs they might have and for meal suggestions or plans.
1. Reduce Distractions in the Dining Room Area
People with Dementia often have trouble concentrating on tasks (e.g., eating) when there is a lot of noise or activities going on in the environment (e.g., television is working in the background). Opt to provide your clients meals in a setting that is quiet, clean, and simple in terms of décor. This type of environment will help make sure that the person is enjoying the meal at their own pace, rather than feeling rushed.
2. Demonstrate Tasks
Quite often the reason why many people with Dementia refuse to eat is because they are missing a step that will help them continue with their meal. If you are eating the meal with them, opt to get their attention and demonstrate what you would like them to do (e.g., using a fork to pick a piece of meat, picking up a knife to spread jam on toast). By resisting the urge to feed them, you respect their individuality and give them a chance to complete tasks independently.
3. Increase Dining Frequency
Frequent, smaller portions may be easier for your client to manage on their own. Opt to prepare finger foods and snacks as an alternative to traditional, big meals. As well, promote independence by leaving snacks in clear view and in most trafficked areas.
4. Limit Options
Depending on how advanced your client is in their memory loss, giving options for a meal might be too much for them to handle. As well, there may come a time when you have to decide the menu without asking input.
5. Supplement Meals with Healthy Drinks
If your client is not able to meet their nutritional requirements, taking dietary supplements may be an option to consider. Consider swapping out some meals for healthy drinks that are high in protein and dense in calories. For example, consider using heavy cream instead of milk in coffee and tea for a boost in calories or protein bar blended with fresh fruit for that healthy boost each day. Before making any substitutions, it is important to speak to a health care practitioner or nutritionist for more accurate advice.
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