“The older we get, the more important a good diet becomes. No matter what age or your current eating habits, it’s never too late to change your diet and improve the way you feel,” says an introduction by Care UK to a new booklet advising how to eat well in old age.
Care UK has pooled the expertise of colleagues across its care homes to create simple, practical tips for nutrition, hydration and dining with dignity, in one easy-to-follow guide.
The guide offers advice on how to overcome common challenges, such as stimulating appetite and interest in food, alongside recipe inspiration and real life stories.
It includes the following top ten tips:
Here are our top ten tips for supporting older people to dine with dignity.
The most important meal of the day
Preserving independence is so important for someone living with dementia, and where better to start than at the breakfast table? Make sure all items are accessible, pour milk into small jugs and decant items such as butter, jam and marmalade into ramekins. You can then encourage your loved one to prepare food for themselves, if possible.
Throughout the day, give loved ones control over mealtimes by supporting them to pour their own gravy and custard from a jug, or to help themselves to their own vegetables from serving dishes.
Time for tea
When making tea or coffee, assess whether someone is able to pour their own tea from the pot or cafetiere. For some, it might only be practical to add their own sugar, but anything that encourages independence is worthwhile.
Take a different view
Make it easy for loved ones to continue making their own drinks and snacks. Take a new look at the kitchen and clear any clutter so mugs and tea bags, for example, can be found quickly.
Keep it simple
Don’t overwhelm someone living with dementia with too much choice. Ask closed questions. For example, ‘would you prefer toast or porridge’, rather than ‘what would you like for breakfast’.
For those who find normal cutlery or crockery a challenge, specially-designed items can be purchased from specialist suppliers. Plates should have some depth to them to make it easier to keep food on the plate and help move the food around.
Compare and contrast
Use a table cloth that contrasts with the plates. Blue or bright yellow plates work best for people living with dementia. The plate stands out from a white tablecloth and the food does too, as there are very few foods in these colours.
Watch the temperature
Some people living with dementia will lose the ability to judge the temperature of their food. As a carer, make sure the food isn’t too hot.
The Alzheimer’s Society explains that a noisy background can be distracting for someone living with dementia. The eating environment should be calm and relaxing.
Make it social
Sit, eat and talk with loved ones as they dine. This will encourage them to stay seated for longer and to continue to eat or snack.