Unfortunately, refusing to eat is part and parcel of dementia for many patients and caregivers. If you act as your loved one’s caregiver at home, this can lead to difficulties and ultimately, frustration. While your loved one may refuse to eat, you can’t exactly force them to either. Creative, compassionate responses are the key to handling a situation in which your loved one with dementia either displays a lack of appetite or refuses to eat. Here are some steps you can take to encourage them to eat:
Consider the Plate
Vision can play a big part in appetite and willingness to eat for people with dementia, including your loved one. You may have to get creative with your plate set up to encourage your loved one to eat up more. A popular tactic is to present your loved one’s food on a colorful plate, such as a red or blue one, rather than a stark white one. People living with dementia tend to see foods on plates differently, which can make food difficult to visually process and thus, difficult to whet their appetite. Furthermore, the use of color on a dementia sufferer’s plate can stimulate greater interest in them, helping them to distinguish between the colors on the plate and the food itself.
Choose Finger Foods
Dementia and aging can lead to your loved one’s functions to deteriorate, including the ones associated with eating. For example, slowed movement and motor function are prominent symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Such factors can lead to eating processes such as using utensils to become more challenging to your loved one, and lowering their self-esteem in regards to eating. Hence, serving your loved one finger foods can be a better fit for them if they experience physical limitations that impair their ability to eat. Some great examples of such foods would be fruits and nuts, which are as nutritious as they are easy to eat.
Stimulate Their Appetite
When sharing a meal with your loved one, take the time to try to spark their interest in the food. For example, praising the food and making your enjoyment of it obvious can help your loved one feel more willing to try the food during mealtimes. On the other hand, you may want to refrain from making negative comments that can affect your loved one’s appetite or opinion towards the food.
Distractions such as conversation or the TV can lead to your loved one being confused or stressed when trying to enjoy a meal, due to the difficulties dementia sufferers experience with multitasking. Hence, try to facilitate an environment for them that’s more conducive to eating. While light conversation is fine, mealtime may not be the best time for full-on discussions that’ll take away from your loved one’s experience with eating.
If your loved one suffers from dementia, memory care can be a life-changing experience for both you and your loved one. To learn more about how our retirement community can support your loved one, explore our Memory Care services.