Making Meals Easier

Practical ways of helping you better care for a person with memory loss and confusion:


m1.png 1: Offer Meals at Regular Times

  • Set a routine for when and where meals are served.
  • Try an easy to read daily schedule or other memory aid to remind the person about meals.
  • Make mealtime a highlight of the day.

m2.png 2: Give Clear and Simple Instructions

  • Speak clearly and slowly.
  • Repeat instructions using the same words each time.
  • Break down the eating process into simple steps. For example, say, “Pick up your spoon. Put some potatoes on it. Raise the spoon to your mouth.”
  • Use visual as well as verbal cues. For example, show the person how to lift the fork to his or her mouth.
  • Be patient and praise the person’s efforts.

m3.png 3: Reduce Distractions

  • Make sure the person has used the bathroom before sitting down to eat.
  • Clear away extra items such as salt and pepper shakers.
  • Try solid colored plates, tablecloths and placemats. They are less distracting than patterned ones.
  • Be flexible. If the person is distracted, take a break and return to eating later.

m4.png 4: Prepare Ahead of Time

  • Prepare the food before serving. For example, have the dressing on the salad and the butter on the bread.
  • Have the food already cut and on the person’s plate.

m5.png 5: Provide a Calm Environment

  • Try soft, relaxing music.
  • Allow the person enough time to eat. It may take him or her an hour to finish a meal.

m6.png 6: Make Eating Easy

  • Give the person one utensil at a time.
  • Put one food item on the plate at a time if necessary.
  • Try bowls and spoons. They are often easier to handle than plates and forks.
  • Cut food into small pieces.
  • Put bowls and plates on a non-skid surface such as a placemat or tablecloth.
  • Fill glasses half-full or use cups with non-spill lids. Try bendable straws.
  • Use plastic aprons, tablecloths and placemats to make cleanup easier.
  • Try plastic cups and dishes to reduce breakage.

m7.png 7: Try Finger Foods

  • If it is easier, let the person use his or her fingers instead of utensils.
  • Offer foods that are easy to pick up. Foods such as cheese, small sandwiches, fresh fruits and vegetables work well.

m8.png 8: Serve Foods the Person Knows

  • Prepare food in ways familiar to the person.
  • Remember that if the person didn’t like a food before, he or she probably isn’t going to like it now.
  • Let the person have smaller and more frequent meals if that is what he or she wants.
  • Try colorful, aromatic and flavorful foods to enhance a person’s appetite.
  • Offer plenty of fluids with meals.

m9.png 9: Check for Physical Comfort

  • Test the temperature of the food. Remember that the person may not be able to tell you if the food is too hot or too cold.
  • Check to see that all food is well chewed. You may need to cut food into smaller pieces or puree it in a blender.
  • Take the person to the dentist immediately if you suspect he or she is experiencing any pain in chewing.

m10.png 10: Plan Ahead When Eating Out

  • Choose quiet, well lit, familiar restaurants where service is fast.
  • Plan to eat before or after the meal rush. Try eating lunch at 11:00 instead of 12:00.
  • Find another caregiver and go out as a foursome.

Adapted from Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) Educational Materials with permission.