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Eating Safely with Dementia

This video clip describes how to help your loved one with eating (time: 3 minutes 45 seconds).

People who have dementia, which includes many different types, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Lewy body dementia, and Vasular dementia, often need assistance with eating. This is particularly true as the disease progresses. From getting a fork full of food from plate to mouth, to cutting up food, to simply moving food around the plate, meal times can be a challenging part of their daily life. Therefore, offering assistance to an individual with dementia is important to ensure that he or she is getting enough food to eat.

To know where to offer assistance, watch as the Alzheimer patient eats. This will allow you to get an idea as to the type of help the individual needs in order to feed him or herself. For instance, in the video below, “Susie” is only nibbling on her food, which includes a sausage patty, biscuit, scrambled eggs, and gravy. Her caregiver notices she is barely eating and is also aware that Susie has difficulty using silverware. Therefore, she offers to make her a sausage biscuit, which is something that Susie will be able to eat with her hands. Susie agrees to the sausage biscuit, but initially has trouble getting a bite on her own. With the caregiver’s assistance, using hand-over-hand assistance, the caregiver’s hand is able to guide Susie’s hand to her mouth for a bite. (With hand-over-hand technique, the caregiver’s hand is placed over the hand of the Alzheimer’s patient, which allows for guidance). After this, Susie is able to continue eating on her own.

In other instances, a dementia patient may appear to just be playing with his or her food, moving it from one part of the plate to another, touching it with his or her fingers, and tasting it. While it may appear that individual doesn’t have much of an appetite, that might not be true. The actions could simply be the result of not knowing what to do with the food.

In yet another example, a dementia patient could appear to be eating very well on his or her own, but still require assistance. In the video, this is the case of one such woman. She has eaten the majority of her food, but there is still a sausage patty left on her plate. When the caregiver asks her about the sausage, she realizes that the woman does like sausage, but is having difficulty cutting it up in order to eat it. Once the caregiver cuts the sausage for her, the woman is able to finish the meal on her own.

This video clip describes how to help your loved one with eating (time: 3 minutes 45 seconds).

Learn how to help a person with dementia to eat safely.