Eating Problems In Alzheimer's Disease
Alzheimer patients present a variety of eating
problems. Most take longer to eat. Some are easily distracted by noise or
activity around them. Some patients have tremors and spill food. Others cannot
remember how to use forks or spoons. They knock glasses of liquid over. Some
patients even try to eat things like flowers or napkins! Some patients will not
eat at all. And, some patients who do eat may have trouble swallowing. Many
patients crave sweets, leaving the nutritious fruits, veggies, and meats behind.
I have compiled some tips that may help you manage eating problems. Here they
- Don't put the whole meal on the plate at one time. Use paper
plates and put one food item per plate.
- Some patients won't drink liquid if it has already been poured into a glass. However, if you let the
patient see you pour the liquid into the glass, they may remember to drink
- Provide contrast between the food and the plate. If the food is
green, a white plate makes for good contrast. Many patients have problems with
- If you put all the food on one single plate,
rotate the plate often so the patient gets to see all the food on the
- Try to serve five or six small meals during the day , instead
of three large ones. Patients have short attention spans and cannot deal with
- Some patients have trouble swallowing thin liquids. You
can use a thickening agent or use things like gelatins,puddings or ice
- Some patients lose the ability to taste. Sensation becomes
dulled. Try flavor enhancers on food. Chicken broth can marinate chicken to give
it extra flavor. Add bacon or cheese flavors to soups and veggies.
- Some patients develop tastes for foods they once hated. For example, someone may
have hated brocoli all their life, but suddenly they develop a taste for it.
Why, we don't know.
- Don't serve items with pits, bones, or in the
wrapping. The Alzheimer patient may forget to remove the bone or pit or may
choke when they eat the wrapper.
- Try to toilet the patient before you sit them down to eat. This way, they will not interrupt eating.l
- Avoid hard-boiled eggs. The patient may try to swallow the whole egg without chewing
it and choke. Always slice it through a cheese slicer first before
- If you have a patient who likes peanut butter, but has
trouble swallowing peanut butter, try mixing some applesauce with it, to make it
easier to swallow.
- Keep soap away from patients at the dinner table.
They may think the soap is something else to eat.
- Always check the temperature of food or liquid before you serve it to a patient. Many patients
have a reduced ability to both feel pain and to verbalize it, so you have to be
aware of this.
- Avoid tough, crunchy foods. Some patients will have
trouble trying to swallow them.
- Some patients will chew and chew. You
have to tell them to stop chewing and say " swallow now".
- If you serve food in containers, remember to take the lids off...the patient will not
be able to figure out that food is under the lid unless they see it.
- Try to use drinking cups with lids on them to prevent accidental spills. You can
also use long straws through the lids, to make it easy for the patients. Many
advanced dementia patients have what is called the "sucking reflex", much like
babies, and the use of a straw can take advantage of that reflex.