How to Make Dining in Dementia Care WAY Better


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Puree food molds,

I’ve often found that senior living communities offer stronger dining programs to those without dementia.

But why is that?

I think that it’s mostly because there’s an assumption that people living with dementia won’t know or care that they’re getting different food or treatment. In one community where I worked, residents with dementia were constantly getting the short of the stick. (Don’t worry, that community was since purchased by a better company.) My residents never got food first, or often on-time: it was a constant battle with the kitchen.

Because my residents had different dining needs, they also needed different options: puree, mechanical soft foods, different utensils—this, and the kitchen was on another floor than my dementia care community. All of these pieces made getting the best food for my residents a real challenge.

Here are a few things communities can do to immediately improve their dementia care dining:

  • Offer red plates > plain, off-white ones. Red plates stand out and help the food stand out and look more appetizing.
  • Get puree molds. These are molds that allow food to actually LOOK like what it really is. These make puree foods SO much more appealing!
  • Provide background music. Have you ever been to a quiet restaurant? (It’s weird.)
  • Offer utensils and equipment that meet the needs of your residents! Not everyone can use a normal plate without making a mess: try a plate guard.
  • Offer 2 choices. 2 choices are perfect: residents with dementia can still choose which they’d like to eat without being overhwlemed.

These are five easy things to improve your dining program immediately. These can even be used at home!

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2 thoughts on “How to Make Dining in Dementia Care WAY Better”

  1. Good information. Yes, I agree with you. My observation is Memory Care Residents are not offered/provided the same quality or choices.
    The dining program of my mothers residence offers Assisted Living Residents 2 choices daily for each meal, and the ability to select from a menu.
    Memory Care Residents do not have this choice. The director of food service told me my mother could select from the choices and menu. Together we selected her choices weekly, and personally submitted to the director of food service, and posted in the kitchen of her living area. The meals selected were not provided. After a period of time the director of food service, said he could not offer it, it had not been done before.
    The staff and residences are not provided with a menu of what is going to be served. It is not possible to have a conversation about what is for breakfast/lunch/dinner or choose to go out for dinner if you do not like what is being served.
    How do you convince a facility to change the plates? I am unable to get the staff to offer a spoon/knife/fork for my mother to use when eating. (My mother was able to use all of the table ware when dining with us for Thanksgiving.)
    I am not the POA and the POA is not concerned.
    The care facility is in MN and has good reviews, but I believe the reviews are positive because family members are so relieved to not have the worries and care.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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