Sometimes seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, or other forms of dementia, have difficulty using utensils to eat. Others have trouble sitting still long enough to consume a full meal. These challenges can lead to malnutrition, a serious concern which can profoundly impact the person’s health. It is important to help the senior take in the necessary nutrition, even if it means adapting the way they eat.
When seniors with dementia have difficulty eating, it can sometimes cause distress for themselves or others. Watching their abilities change can invoke feelings of grief, stress or frustration for family members.
Finger Foods Offer Nutrition with Dignity — and without Frustration — for Many People with Dementia
Finger foods are simply foods that can be eaten without utensils, or on the go. There are many examples of nutritious finger foods for adults. Chicken nuggets, fish sticks, pizza rolls and baked or fried potato wedges are all common finger foods. Their nutritional value can vary quite a bit, so pay attention to nutritional data listed on the package. Better yet, prepare them from fresh foods, if possible.
Examples of healthy finger food choices include:
* Steamed broccoli, cauliflower or baby carrots
* Fresh cherry tomatoes
* Orange segments
* Apple wedges
Sandwiches can be a great source of nutrition and an easy food to take along on the go. Some sandwiches can be harder to hold together, especially with arthritic hands. Foods that “stick” to the bread, like peanut butter, tuna, egg salad or melted cheese may be easier to manage than foods that easily separate from the bread, like sliced cheese and lettuce. Cutting sandwiches into fourths may also make them easier to manage.
Make the Most of Mugs
To make soup easier to handle, try pureeing it in a blender and then serving it in a mug, perhaps with a straw. Applesauce or other pureed fruit can also be served in a mug, as can yogurt (thinned with milk if needed). Smoothies are a great way to get nutrition on the go.
Homecare Aides can Prepare Food, Encourage Eating… and then Clean Up Afterward
If someone with dementia is having trouble eating, it can spell trouble for their health and well being. If a family member is becoming frustrated or distressed over their changing eating habits, it can increase emotional challenges and even interfere in the relationship. In any case, having a homecare aide come in during mealtime can make a big difference.
Homecare aides can prepare meals, focusing on finger foods if needed. They can supervise or encourage the person with dementia to eat while providing respite relief for the family member. Aides can even clean up any mess afterward! They can do the dishes, sweep the floor and clean up the kitchen. They can even help the person with dementia wash up and change into clean clothing if needed. What a gamechanger for a family member struggling with this aspect of care!
If the person with dementia is able to consume their food, even without traditional use of utensils, don’t worry too much about it. As long as they are taking in enough nutrition, it’s fine to just let it be. However, if they aren’t eating well enough, or if it causes stress for other family members, try having a homecare aide come in and help out.