When it comes to dining, experience plays a huge role for individuals with dementia. They may have difficulties with the physical aspect of eating, which include an impacted ability to chew, taste and smell. However, how they dine can improve their experience immensely. Communities that provide memory care in Orange Park, FL understand how Alzheimer’s and dementia affect individuals. Thus, they have found the optimal methods to deal with such difficulties, which we discuss below.
Dealing with Noise
Hearing is the sense with the greatest impact on the quality of life for an individual with dementia. Dementia can worsen the effects of sensory change, as it alters how an individual perceives stimuli such as light and noise.
Navigating a regular dining area often means navigating layers of noise. From the sound of television programs or radios to the conversation of team members and diners to chairs scraping and cutlery clattering – the dining area is a minefield of noise that can easily overwhelm a dementia patient. It is impossible – and perhaps undesirable! – to remove the noise altogether, but memory care programs are aware of how badly noise can affect the dining experience of individuals with dementia. Thus, these programs take care to provide dining spaces that are calm and quiet, allowing residents to have their meals in a relaxing and comfortable space.
A Matter of Color
Alongside changes to sensory stimulation comes the loss of taste and smell. This loss could be due to medication or a variety of other factors. What it means for individuals with dementia is that food often appears unappealing or bland. For memory care programs, this means being creative when it comes to food presentation so that dining choices appear more appealing to residents. While an individual with dementia may be unable to smell and taste as acutely as they once did, their sense of sight can still be piqued by a colorful meal. Studies have been performed showing that something even as subtle as the color of a plate can have an effect on the amount of food consumed. Changing plate colors to vivid reds and yellows often lead to a higher rate of consumption.
Of course, the presentation extends to the actual food as well. Colorful food served in bite-sized pieces, pureed, or mashed (if required), is more appealing to individuals with dementia, as well as easier to eat individually or with little assistance.
Take Your Time
Understanding and empathy go a long way. Simply allowing individuals with dementia to eat at their own time and pace can help improve their desire to eat. In most situations, an individual with dementia will take longer to chew and use their utensils, or even just go through the dining experience as a whole. How long they take to eat though, doesn’t matter (within reason). What matters instead is that they get the nutritional intake they require and that they have enjoyed the dining experience. A good memory care program is person-centered and understands that each individual moves at their own pace. All of the methods we have listed are ways in which memory care programs help with dining difficulties in individuals with dementia.