Eating

People with Alzheimer's Disease may have increasing problems with eating as the disease progresses. Changes in eating behavior can result in lack of interest in food, difficulty with the mechanics of eating and poor table manners. It is important to encourage the person to maintain the mechanics of eating by themselves as long as possible.

1. LACK OF INTEREST IN FOOD:

Possible Underlying Causes:

Decreased need for calories which may accompany aging; depression; constipation or difficulty chewing or swallowing; diminished senses; memory loss and apraxia; poor-fitting dentures; lack of coordination. Set table

Possible Modifications:

  • Present food that is colorful and flavorful.
  • If possible, let person participate in some appropriate phase of food making (e.g., rolling out dough).
  • Smells of food making can be helpful in encouraging interest in food.
  • Serve one course at a time with small servings. Play pleasant background music at dinnertime.
  • Set table in attractive manner.
  • Check with dentist to see if problem with teeth or dentures.
2. OVEREATING OR EATING INAPPROPRIATE FOODS:

Possible Underlying Causes:

Desire for sweets; boredom; lack or recall when last ate.

Possible Modificadons:

  • Reduce access to certain foods. (e.g., keep sweets in locked cabinet).
  • Disguise foods that are being eaten in excess (e.g., put plain wrapper on ice cream).
  • Substitute similar foods that are healthy. (e.g., non-sweet cereals, candy sweetened with sugar substitute).
  • Provide finger food snacks regularly (e.g., carrot sticks).
  • Introduce food related activity (e.g., kneading dough or putting decoration on cookies).
3. POOR TABLE MANNERS OR MESSY EASING

Possible Underlying Causes:

Difficulty handling utensils, lack of interest, difficulty swallowing, poorly fitting dentures.

Possible Modifications: Placemat Picture

  • Use a plastic tablecloth or placemat for easier clean up.
  • Use sturdy plastic dishes and cups for minimum breakage.
  • The tablecloth and dishes should be of contrasting colors to make dishes easy to distiguish from their background.
  • Use plastic smocks or aprons.
  • Eating utensils with built-up handles are easier to manipulate. These are available in medical supply stores and catalogs. Tape can also be wrapped around utensil handles to build them up.
  • Plates with suction cups will prevent sliding. Also, plates with guards or dividers help prevent food from slipping off plate. Other aides include controlled flow drinking cups and clip-on straw holders which are available at medical supply stores or catalogues.
  • Use finger foods so that person can feed him/herself.
  • Put plastic cloth on floor for any spillage.
  • A sturdy desk chair on rollers may make it easier to roll person closer to table.
  • Always check temperature of food.
  • Check with dentist to see if problem with teeth or dentures.



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