Amanda Holliday, MS, RD, LDN is a Clinical Assistant Professor and Registered Dietitian with the Department of Nutrition, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She specializes in medical nutrition therapy and nutrition and aging and writes a wonderful and informative blog, 3 Square Meals, that addresses many essential concerns and needs of proper nutrition for seniors.
In a recent guest blog for Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services, Holliday highlighted five tips that may prove helpful when dining with a loved one who has dementia:
- Consider appetizer-like foods: Many times numerous utensils can get confusing and mealtime can feel more like an obstacle course than a time to enjoy nourishment. Try only serving foods that can be eaten with your hands, such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, granola bars, or thinly sliced veggies.
- Place all foods and beverages within reach: Even the most flexible and agile person can have difficulty reaching for their beverage glass at some restaurants. Make mealtime simpler by placing everything close to the plate so the food is the focus, not the sport of trying to catch/reach the food.
- Don't forget to cue: If you are assisting someone with dementia, try cueing them during mealtime with polite cues such as: "Martha, take a bite of that yummy chicken," or "Take a drink now." These cues help to ensure that the focus stays on the meal and encourages all food to be eaten.
- Don't forget to get in your "eating pose": Have you noticed the number of people who slouch when they eat? Mealtime is much easier and more enjoyable when we can get in the 90-90-90 pose. This means that your chin is 90 degrees from your torso, your hips are bent (as closely to) 90 degrees and your knees and angles are at 90 degrees. You'd be amazed at the impact this has on safe and comfortable dining.
- Be patient, avoid frustration and be respectful: Did you know most of us should take at least 30 minutes to enjoy our meal? Americans have gotten into rushing through meals. Being patient and focused on the event of eating will avoid frustration for everyone involved. Also, if you are assisting others with eating, try the hand-over-hand technique. This is just as it sounds, you place your hand over the hand of the person you are assisting and help them with cutting, scooping and delivering the food to their mouth. This technique is simple and it helps preserve (or even improve) the other person's self-feeding ability.
To more tips on eating with dementia from other experts and to learn more on techniques and guidance about eating and healthy aging, see Amanda’s 3 Square Meals Blog at: http://3squaremealsblog.wordpress.com/. You may also follow her on Twitter at @amandasholliday.
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