Expert offers tips on helping people with dementia enjoy meals

‘Be patient are the key words here’

It can be challenging to encourage people living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to eat full meals, but Bob DeMarco, an expert on Alzheimer’s disease and founder of the Alzheimer’s Reading Room, has provided some ideas to help caregivers.

On the Alzheimer’s Reading Room website, DeMarco offers several simple suggestions to encourage people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia to eat meals.

DeMarco says one of the first things caregivers of people with dementia should consider during mealtimes is the colour of plates. According to a Boston University study, food intake among people with dementia was increased by 25 per cent when food was plated on coloured dishes, as opposed to white ones.

Researcher Alice Cronin-Golomb and her team noted in their findings that the process of sending information to the brain through the eyes is diminished in people with dementia. Eating from white plates further slows information to the brain through the eyes, the researchers said. Using coloured plates, however, increases colour contrast and depth perception, the study states.

DeMarco also points to the importance of making eye contact with people who have dementia during mealtimes. He recommends caregivers sit directly in front of people with dementia during mealtimes and make eye contact during meals, occasionally smiling and waiting for the other person to smile back.

He also recommends not talking during meals. People who are dining with a loved one with dementia should start eating first, waiting patiently for their loved one to follow suit.

“Be patient are the key words here,” DeMarco writes. “You might have to do this for a while before it starts working. Remember, you are trying to break a bad pattern and replace with a good pattern.”

DeMarco also states that people should never try to convince a person with dementia that they should eat. Telling people they should eat is “counterproductive,” he says.

“The proper mindset here is learning to be a guide. A good guide makes eye contact and smiles,” DeMarco writes.

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