Community Blog

Elder Care Tips: Encouraging Independence in Eating for Your Senior with Alzheimer's Disease

By Michael Hagman, RN, BSN

Elder Care in Helena MT

Being on an elder care journey with a senior who has Alzheimer's disease can be extremely challenging. One of the greatest challenges that you will face is finding ways that you can encourage ongoing independence and autonomy in your aging parent even as they are progressing through the disease. Maintaining independence helps to support your parent's mental and emotional health, and encourages stronger cognitive functioning throughout the stages of the disease.

Use these tips to help your parent maintain greater independence in eating while progressing through Alzheimer's disease:

• Simplify mealtime. Serve your parent their meals during quiet times and limit the number of distractions, such as television or a barking dog. This will help your parent to concentrate on the task of eating so they are more likely to eat as much as they should.

• Make the food more obvious. A senior who is coping with the cognitive decline of Alzheimer's disease may have difficulty differentiating between food and plates or bowls, and different types of food. This can be extremely confusing and even discourage your parent from eating properly. Look for plates and bowls that make the food more obvious, such as brightly colored options that stand out from both the tablecloth and the food.

• Use assistive tableware. Make eating easier for your parent by looking for tableware designed to address specific concerns. Bowls and plates with suction bottoms, for example, prevent them from moving around when your parent is trying to scoop food onto their spoons or forks. There are also spoons and forks set at an angle to allow for changes in your parent's mobility.

• Limit options. Serving multiple types of food can be overwhelming and confusing for your parent. Choose only one or two types of food to serve at a time. When your parent is finished eating those foods, follow up with another food or two until you have served the entire meal.

• Be flexible. Your parent's tastes are likely to change throughout the progression of the disease. Be willing to be flexible with the foods that you serve your loved one. This means accepting if they start to express dislike for previously favorite foods or start to request foods that they never liked before. Serve small amounts of the food requested to ensure that your parent likes it before serving it more frequently. Consider offering the previously liked food after a week or two to see if their tastes have gone back.

• Serve food at the proper temperature. Be very careful to check food before you serve it to your loved one to ensure that it is the right temperature. Your parent may not be able to detect high heat and could burn themselves by eating it.

• Eat more frequently. Seniors with dementia may not be interested in eating or may become anxious and overwhelmed during large meals. Change to serving multiple small meals during the day rather than three large meals.


If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring elder care in Helena, MT, contact the caring staff at Home Helpers. Call today (406) 438 - 2231.