|Care Advocate Newsletter|
|Past Issues | Download PDF||April 2013|
In addition to any physical problems or medication issues that may affect appetite and eating ability, people with dementia may forget whether they have eaten, be unable to recognize some foods or to use cutlery, have difficulty chewing or swallowing, be easily distracted while eating and/or be unable to communicate their food likes and dislikes. They may prefer only a few foods, or certain types of foods—for example, ice cream, or cookies, cake or chocolate candy.
Although there are a number of challenges to be faced, there are steps that can be taken to maximize both food intake and more pleasure in eating, while helping to maintain your relative’s independence and dignity:
If it’s possible, you may wish to schedule your visit at meal times. When you share a meal with your friend or relative, try to eat a similar food to encourage positive feelings of comfort and familiarity. For most people, food is a source of pleasure. For the person with dementia, it is one of the few pleasures still available to them, so it makes all the more sense that meals be a priority.
Focus on Finger Foods
There are some clear advantages: Finger foods can be eaten on the run if the person stands up or wanders; it requires less assistance, preserving independence longer and making more efficient use of staff time with the resident, and it can be given in smaller amounts several times a day in keeping with the person’s preference.
Ariane Stein, a dietitian in France specializing in Alzheimer’s and gerontology, has done some interesting research on the use of finger foods and gave us some ideas about how to make them more appealing. Mrs. Stein experimented with taking traditional French dishes such as casserole of beef, veal, stew, pork with lentils, even rice pudding, and preparing them as finger food. There are few things as comforting as familiar foods and tastes, so imagine macaroni and cheese, lasagna, your favorite chicken dish, or pumpkin pie as finger food!
Ms. Stein did her research in a nursing home in the Dordogne region of France, Le Verger Des Balans, with support from Dr. Genevieve Demoures. The purpose of the study was to show that nutritionally balanced, visually appealing, easy to pick up food could provide residents with Alzheimer’s the ability to feed themselves and be more independent. Her results were extremely positive, with all 20 of the residents she worked with improving to the point where they needed less help. This is consistent with what has become good practice for many years. What is new here is Mrs. Stein’s creation of recipes that are interesting, comforting and familiar to residents, as well as nutritionally balanced.
As you can see, food choices are open to creativity and imagination—most foods can be prepared as finger food when approached the right way. Think wraps, meatballs, mini quiches, scones, crackers with cream cheese, fruit slices, French toast, cooked carrot sticks, potato wedges, sandwiches with soft fillings, cheese melts, fishcakes—the possibilities are endless.
One thing to keep in mind is that this is not a “one size fits all” approach, and plans should be customized in consultation with the dietitian and staff to accommodate preference and comfort.
|We wish to acknowledge Forest Laboratories, Inc. for making this newsletter possible.|
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For more information about Ariane Stein’s approach, contact her at:
To learn more about improved dining practices: