Dining With Dementia

The past few weeks have been busy around “the office.”  I’ve been driving around NC visiting students as they complete their clinical rotations.

I recently received an email from the folks at Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services (CMSS).  If you’ve never heard of  CMSS, visit here to learn more.  They are an incredible organization specializing in Chicago senior care.

Since both of us work with seniors who have dementia, we thought it would be a great idea to share practices around eating and dementia.  My post, Eating with Dementia provides five practical tips that will help mealtime be more successful.  Be sure to visit the link to learn more.

Karoline Hutson, with Chicagoland Methodist Senior Services, was nice enough to provide the below post:

Dining with Dementia:

A meal can easily turn into a stressful situation for someone with dementia – not to mention for the person providing care. In our memory support communities, we have found these tips helpful in creating a calm, pleasant dining experience for our residents:

  • Use different colored dishes. For example, use a red plate and a blue mug on a yellow placemat. This helps distinguish each item for their proper use in addition to defining the food on the plate.
  • Create a delineated space for each individual. When serving several people, use a square table rather than a round one; this can help to prevent confusion regarding which items are to be used by each person.
  • Play to the sense of smell and incorporate it into the dining experience. Using fresh herbs and spices helps to stimulate senses, memories, and conversation.
  • If there are options to choose from, do not use menus or verbal descriptions. Choices should be made after the food is seen, smelled, and perhaps even tasted.
  • If using utensils properly is an issue, serve finger foods or make the meal into a sandwich, which is easily done if you get creative. Now is not the time to worry about being neat and tidy.
  • If there is a loss of appetite that is leading to unhealthy weight loss, fortify a simple dish with extra ingredients. For example, serve a comfort food like mashed potatoes and mix in sour cream, cheese, or bacon to add some fat content.
  • Be sure that the dining environment is calm and free from distractions such as loud noises and unpleasant smells. Play soothing music and allow enough time for everyone to eat at their own pace.

The most important thing is remain observant – most problems can be easily solved with a keen sense of awareness and a little creativity. If you have any questions or want to share tips of your own, feel free to join the conversation at our Dealing with Dementia Facebook page!


Thanks Karoline!!  Happy Eating!

Snack Attack!

Snack Attack!

To snack or not to snack? Maybe you’re struggling to get your protein and vegetables in, or maybe you only get two meals in each day…either way, snacking may be good for you! Some experts are saying that snacking can be an effective way for older adults to meet their daily caloric and nutrient requirements. In a recent study, snackers ate about 250 more calories than non-snackers on a daily basis.1

Health problems, medications, and loss of taste sensation can cause us to eat less on a daily basis as we age. In addition, we cannot eat as much at one sitting as we could when we were younger. Nutritious snacks in between meals can boost nutrient intake.

When it comes to smart snacking, incorporating healthy snacks is easier said than done, right? It is easy to be tempted by cookies or chips. What if we incorporate the same general qualities that attract us to those nutritionally “empty” snack foods such as sweetness, saltiness, and crunchiness, into healthier alternatives? Snacking also gives us the opportunity to make up for areas in our diet in which we are lacking. For example, if you aren’t getting enough protein and fiber in your diet, a good snack could be dried fruits and nuts.

It is crucial that we make healthy snacking easy to do, which means having healthy snacks ready on-hand, or those that would be quick to make. These include snacks such as celery and peanut butter, whole grain crackers and cheese, or fruit and yogurt. If you like to bake, consider making carrot-zucchini muffins, or oatmeal raisin cookies, which are healthy alternatives to cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies. Finally, resist buying items such as soda, cookies and chips at the store so that they won’t be there to tempt you later.

In conclusion, older adults who incorporate snacking into their daily eating habits are more likely to be meeting their daily caloric requirements, so snack away! But remember to snack smartly – healthy snacks give the biggest benefits!

Helpful Handout:  Handout_Healthy Snacking for A Healthy Lifestyle

Guest Blogger:  Gentry Lasater

1. Zizza CA, Tayie FA, Lino M. Benefits of snacking in older Americans. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007;107:800–806

2.”Snacking Can Benefit Older Adults” http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/05/070502074232.htm

3. http://www.cloudninemarketing.com/healthhealersnews/?p=1242

4. http://www.thebakingbeauties.com/2008/09/gluten-free-zucchini-carrot-muffins.html


Spice it Up: How to Add Flavor and Tickle to Your Taste Buds

Spice it Up!

Have you noticed an increasing number of foods that just seem way too bland and flavorless?! What about an overpowering taste coming from your dentures?1 If you are noticing changes in how foods taste and are getting frustrated with eating foods that seem bland and unappetizing, you are not alone.

As we age, changes occur to our bodies that can minimize and alter the flavor of foods.1 Loss of taste buds and taste interference from medications and denture adhesive can decrease the enjoyment we get out of eating and can cause a decrease in the amount we eat.1,2 About 1/3 of older adults report experiencing changes and dissatisfaction in their sense of taste, and it is likely that even more people are affected!1 If you are experiencing these changes, I’ve got some great ideas to bring flavor back into your meals!

A huge variety of items such as herbs, spices, and sauces can help breathe new life into old food favorites! These items can provide an easy way to bring BIG flavor back to your meals. Try pouring fruit sauces and jams made from peaches and pineapple over chicken and pork dishes.3 Dry rubs that include herbs and spices like rosemary, thyme and ginger can be used to enhance the flavor of chicken, beef, pork and fish.1,3 Vegetables like potatoes, broccoli, and greens can be cooked in butter and covered with cream or cheese sauces to decrease bitterness and increase taste.3

These are just a few ideas of ways to increase flavor and bring back the joy that comes from eating your favorite foods. Since the flavors that appeal most to you can be different from those of your friends and family, try a variety of sauces, spices, herbs and see what tastes best to you!3 The enjoyment and health benefits that comes from food can only happen if we eat3, so get the most out of your meals, you deserve it!

Helpful Handouts:

Handout_How to Add Flavor

herb suggestions

Herbs and how to use handout

Guest Blogger:  Lauren Paynter


1. Rawson, N. E. (2003). Age-related changes in perception of flavor and aroma. Generations (San Francisco, Calif.), 27(1), 20-26.

2. Mathey, A., Siebelink, E., de Graaf, C., and Van Staveren, W. (2001). Flavor Enhancement of Food Improves Dietary Intake and Nutritional Status of Elderly Nursing Home Residents. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences. Vol.56A(4), M200-M205.

3. Bernstein, Melissa, and Ann Schmidt. Luggen. “Chapter 6: Smell and Taste in Older Adults.”Nutrition for the Older Adult. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett, 2010. 93-98.