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6 Strategies for Feeding an Aging Parent Who Has Dementia

By Mark Schmidt, 9:00 am on May 27, 2019

Feeding a senior with dementia can be challenging. Dementia and other causes of cognitive deficits can take away an aging adult’s appetite, cause apprehension at mealtimes, and lead to anxiety. Fortunately, there are some tips that can make feeding your loved one a more positive experience.

1. Allow Enough Time

Seniors with dementia may be slow to finish a meal. Be patient and allow ample time to encourage your loved one to open his or her mouth and chew the food. If you feed your loved one too fast, he or she may become overwhelmed and turn away from the food. 

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be extremely challenging, and a compassionate, professional caregiver can be a wonderful source of support. If your elderly loved one is living with a serious medical condition and needs help managing the tasks of daily living, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a Tucson in-home care agency you can trust. Our caregivers are available 24/7, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of our in-home care services.

2. Provide Choices

Even though seniors with dementia have severe cognitive deficits, they may still want to be able to make their own choices, which might mean choosing to eat their mashed potatoes with a fork instead of a spoon or drinking their juice from a cup instead of a glass. Comply with your loved one’s requests unless it poses a danger.

3. Encourage Participation

Even if your loved one has physical limitations that prevent him or her from eating independently, encourage participating during mealtimes. Allow your loved one to hold utensils, and if utensils are difficult to grasp, you can purchase spoons, forks, and knives with built-up handles. Built-up utensils help those with grasping or pain issues better feed themselves.

4. Monitor Swallowing Ability

Seniors with dementia may be at a heightened risk for chewing and swallowing disorders. If your loved one has difficulty chewing or chokes when swallowing, make an appointment with his or her physician. The doctor may recommend seeing a speech pathologist for a swallowing evaluation. Swallowing issues can lead to aspiration pneumonia, which can be a life-threatening infection for seniors.

Difficulty swallowing and other eating issues in the advanced stages of dementia can make caring for aging adults increasingly challenging. One of the most challenging tasks of helping an elderly relative age in place safely and comfortably is researching agencies that provide elder care. Tucson families can turn to Home Care Assistance for reliable, high-quality in-home care for aging adults. We offer 24-hour live-in care for seniors who require extensive assistance, and we also offer respite care for family caregivers who need a break from their caregiving duties.

5.Explain Procedures

Even though eating is a familiar routine for your loved one, always explain procedures as you’re performing them. Cognitively impaired seniors may fear new situations and be apprehensive of familiar ones as well. While feeding or assisting your loved one at mealtimes, explain everything you’re doing so he or she doesn’t feel threatened.

6. Offer Substitutions

People with dementia may like a specific food one day and develop an aversion to it the next. Have some food substitutions on hand so you can quickly and easily offer a change if your loved one doesn’t care for his or her meal. Older adults with dementia are at risk for weight loss, dehydration, and nutritional deficiencies, so it’s important to do everything you can to help your loved one maintain optimal nutrition to stay healthy and strong.

Even when families have the best intentions, caring for a senior loved one with dementia can be challenging. Fortunately, Home Care Assistance is here to help. We are a leading provider of dementia care. Tucson families can take advantage of our flexible and customizable care plans, and our caregivers always stay up to date on the latest developments in senior care. If you need professional dementia home care for your loved one, our Care Managers are just a phone call away. Reach out to Home Care Assistance today at (520) 276-6555.