12 October 2016
A list of helpful tips: Catering for those living with Dementia
Brian Lane, Hallmark Care Homes Executive Chef and Head of Chef Academy, shares his advice on catering for those living with dementia.
Meals are best served in quiet relaxed surroundings, away from the television and other distractions. Make the environment as gently stimulating to the senses as possible: familiar sounds of cooking, food smells from the kitchen and gentle music from their era can be of help.
Let the person living with dementia choose where they sit and eat. Remember, some people enjoy eating with company; others prefer to eat on their own. They should also be able to choose what they want to eat, within reason, and be given plenty of time to eat. Keep in mind that it may take an hour or longer to finish eating.
Changes in visual and spatial abilities may make it tough for someone living with dementia to distinguish food from the plate or the plate from the table. This can be achieved by using a coloured plate contrasting with the table cover. Avoid patterned dishes, tablecloths and placemats. Use a clear glass so the person can see what’s inside, or a brightly coloured cup to draw the eye. Make sure the cup or glass is suitable – not too heavy or a difficult shape. You might serve food in a coloured bowl instead of a plate and a spoon with a large handle may be easier to handle than a fork, try to make the most of the person’s abilities.
Watch food and drink temperatures – while warm food is more appetising, some people living with dementia have lost the ability to judge when food or drink is too hot.
Keep in mind the persons likes and dislikes when preparing and cooking food, and be aware that a person with dementia may suddenly change their mind and reject foods they use to like. Keep in mind a person’s past history with food – they may have always had a small or large appetite, even had a craving for sweet things. Different tastes, colours and smells can stimulate someone’s appetite. Food tastes may change so try using stronger flavours and sweet foods e.g. sweet sauces, chutneys, herbs and spices this will help enhance the flavour.
The food should always look and smell appealing and have variety, try not to overload the plate with food. Regular, small portions are best and generally preferred rather than set mealtimes.
If you do consider soft or pureed food, seek advice from a dietitian or speech and language therapist to make sure it’s nutritious and remains flavorsome.
Make snacking easy
Someone living with dementia is generally very active and will burn a lot of calories. They will benefit from regular bite-size snacks that are easy to pick up throughout the day, which will help encourage them to eat. Items high in protein and calories are best, such as chicken nuggets or fish goujons, small scotch eggs, sausage rolls or finger sandwiches. For vitamins, minerals and hydration, serve portioned fruits – fresh and dried, steamed broccoli or cauliflower pieces etc. If vegetables are cooked make sure they are not over cooked and retain their nutrients, vitamins and colour. It is recommended that night time snacks are made available, as someone living with dementia will generally wake throughout the night.
If you have any further questions about dementia or dementia care, please click here to find your nearest Hallmark care home.