To someone with Alzheimer’s and dementia and complicating conditions like COPD, a regular dinner plate with normal-sized portions can seem overwhelming. I have asthma and when I’m sick or the pollen is particularly bad and I’m short of breath even after using my inhalers, eating is a chore. Eating can also be a task for someone with Alzheimer’s and dementia and arthritis. Frequently, my aunt has to put her fork down and rub her knuckles because she gets intense, cramping pains. It happens when we cut up her food for her. It’s just the action of gripping the fork.
These issues were causing my aunt to balk at eating regular portions. I started putting her meat on a dessert plate, her vegetables in a small bowl and her mashed potatoes on another small plate. Now she’ll usually eat adult-sized portions and clean all her plates because three small dishes are not as intimidating as a big plate full of food. A tray with compartments would probably work well too.
Alzheimer’s and dementia patients usually feel safer if they keep to a mealtime routine. Even if you’re not ready for supper at 5 pm, sit at the table with your family member and drink a glass of tea or a cup of coffee. Put the phone down. Put the laptop away. Give them thirty minutes of your time because they will eat more and they may need help with utensils or simply coaxing to finish their food. Remember that your loved one grew up before cell phones and is living in the past and remembering a time when the whole family ate at the same time and talked to each other instead of staring at a phone. People with Alzheimer’s and dementia usually go to bed very early and you have plenty of time to text or tweet or get on Facebook after they’re asleep.
Keep meals on a schedule, do a few extra dishes and have a conversation with your loved one at dinner time. It’s beneficial for both of you.