Are you caring for a dementia patient who has been showing signs of eating issues? Even if no current issues exist in terms of mealtime, making sure they eat properly will help to ensure they stay as healthy and strong as possible. So, whether you have just one patient in your care with dementia, or a few, here are some tips you can use that will get their eating habits under control.
Create a Nutritionally Balanced Meal Plan
The first step in making sure a dementia patient eats properly is to create a meal plan that is nutritionally balanced and meets all their specific needs. If there are any gaps in nutrition, their health can suffer negatively.
Write Down the Meal Schedule and Post It
Because dementia patients may forget if they have eaten, or when they should eat next, it’s a good idea to create a meal schedule that you can post. They will be able to look at it if they choose, and any visiting friends or family can also refer to the meal schedule. If you’re caring for a dementia patient in their home, the schedule will help to keep the day on track.
Does the Food Need Special Preparation?
Sometimes as dementia progresses in a patient it can lead to chewing and swallowing issues. This is more than just inconvenient; it can be dangerous as you don’t want to risk them choking. At this point, their meals may need to be prepared in a special manner such as blending or pureeing the food.
To ensure it is the ideal consistency you can use a product such as the SimplyThick thickener which can be added to blended/pureed food. Thickener products allow you to reach the exact right consistency so it’s safe and easy for the patient to swallow.
Set the Meal Up for Success
You’re probably familiar with the saying “set yourself up for success” and that can be applied to mealtime for a dementia patient. Setting the meal up for success means you acknowledge potential issues in advance and find ways to eliminate the odds of those problems happening.
Some of the steps you can take are to remove any distractions from the area where they are eating; create a calm and soothing environment; provide the patient with a comfortable chair and table to eat at; and use simple yet contrasting elements on the table (the food, plates, and placemat) so each are distinguishable.
Don’t Rush the Meal
The final tip is to make sure you don’t rush the patient through their meal. This will create a stressful environment, which can set things back. Not only that but if they do have problems with chewing or swallowing, rushing them can be dangerous. It’s not unusual for meals to take up to an hour to finish, so you can work that timeline into the schedule.
Because patient health is a priority for any caregiver, these tips will prove to be essential in keeping the person well-fed in a nutritionally balanced and safe manner.