There are many seniors who struggle with eating. Supporting the dining experience for these people with varying abilities is a challenge that often gets overlooked. The preceding article addressed loss of appetite in seniors. We’ll discuss some of the common reasons there are challenges, and provide tips for how to help improve the dining experience.
Seniors Mealtime Challenges
Below are some common reasons why eating can become more challenging for seniors:
- Hand tremors
- Alzheimers disease
- Limited Hand mobility
- Changes in ability to chew and swallow food
Making Eating Easier For Seniors
There are many adaptive utensils that are specifically designed for people who are experiencing difficulty with eating. Below are some examples:
- Non slip plates, cups and bowls – Parkinson’s and Dementia
- Dividers – Dementia, Stroke, Tremors, Parkinson’s
- Contrasting colors dementia vision changes
- Red cups, bowls and plates – a study showed a 24% increase in food intake 84% fluid intake for people living with Alzheimers
- Weighted – Parkinson’s, Dementia
- Larger grip – Arthritis, Neuropathy, Grip strength, Parkinson’s
- Click For More Examples
When someone is living with dementia, their brain changes will also affect their ability and desire to eat.
The staff at Orchard at Brookhaven is educated in helping our residents with their nutrition. Our dining staff is trained in helping people feel more able and willing to participate in meals. Our support staff are trained in helping the residents with changing abilities be able to participate in meal-time for meeting both social and nutritional needs. Some of the ways that we create a more supportive environment for dining include the understanding in changing abilities and what support is needed.
Improving The Dining Experience For Seniors
Retained abilities can be supported in the right environment. Consider the following:
- Vision changes can be supported by contrasting colors.
- A black mat may be “seen” as a hole.
- If the environment is familiar and its function is obvious, it is easier to manage.
- Visual cues and landmarks help make it easier to navigate.
- Entrances need to be clearly marked and accessible.
- Friendly and welcoming (indicators that I am wanted here)
- Retained abilities are supported and support given when required.
Tips To Improve The Dining Experience For Someone With Dementia
It may become more difficult for someone living with dementia to make decisions. Consider the following to better support these people:
- Reduce the amount of information
- Give two choices
- Offer visual aids
- Limiting sensory stimulation
- Offering time to make decisions and not rushing
Physical Skills & Dining
As we age, the following physical skills can change and impact our ability to eat:
- Balance and coordination
- Fine motor movement in hands
- Tracking with eyes
- Fine motor movement of mouth
- Aging slows our ability to process information and respond to that information.
- “Outpacing” is a term used to describe providing information too quickly to be processed, thus rendering a person incapable of completing tasks that he or she might otherwise have accomplished. The staff at Orchard allows ample time for people to respond and make decisions.
Vision Change & Impact On Dining
As we age, the following vision degradation issues can impact our ability to eat.
- Loss of peripheral vision.
- Loss of depth perception.
- Object use recognition
- Differing interpretation of sights
- Sensitivity to visual stimulation
Below are some common signs of challenges with vision, if you are wondering if someone’s vision is changing, look for these signs.
- Lack of eye contact
- Unusual head movements
- Inability to recognize familiar objects
- Tripping or bumping into objects
- Withdrawal from activities
- Losing or misplacing things
- Misinterpretation of sights
Tips For Improved Meal Experience With Loss Of Vision
Below are some meal-time changes and tips to consider for improving the dining experience:
- Begin interaction in visual field – peripheral vision is limited when someone is living with dementia
- Give person time to recognize faces and information – it takes longer for someone living with dementia to process information including faces
- Simple, limited visual cues – help people understand their environment and the information that you are giving
- Contrasting colors – Red plates, bowls and cups have been found to help people eat better who are living with Alzheimers better who are living with Alzheimers
If you are looking for more information on how a senior living facility can help improve the dining experience for someone with dementia, please contact us today.