How to Make Mealtimes Less Stressful for a Senior Parent with Alzheimer’s

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How to Make Mealtimes Less Stressful for a Senior Parent with Alzheimer’s

Do you have an elderly parent that lives with you who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease? Maybe it’s not a recent diagnosis, but their symptoms are changing, and the disease has been progressing as of late.

Caring for a parent with Alzheimer’s can be both mentally and physically demanding. Among the many issues you will need to cope with is mealtimes, which isn’t always smooth and simple. However, we’ve got some basic tips that can help make mealtimes a little less stressful for you and your parent with Alzheimer’s. 

You may also want to check out our thoughts on the best nutritional drinks for seniors.

Do They Have Difficulty Swallowing?

Sometimes, neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s can cause a swallowing issue called dysphagia. For those with dysphagia, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to swallow food and liquid safely and without pain. It takes a lot more work, time and energy for them to chew, swallow and then move food to their stomach.

Now, just because your parent has Alzheimer’s, it doesn’t mean they automatically have dysphagia; it’s just more common that this can happen.

If you notice that they are coughing, choking, having a hard time swallowing, losing interest in food drooling, or have heartburn or hoarseness to their voice, it’s best to schedule an appointment with their doctor to be checked.

If they are diagnosed with dysphagia, you will likely receive information on a safe diet plan, and don’t be surprised if you find you need to adjust the consistency of their foods.

Did you know that sometimes liquids can be too thin, causing them to move too fast into the body and thereby risk aspiration?

Liquids such as water, milk, fruit juice, coffee, tea and soda can often benefit from a liquid thickener to create a nectar-like consistency. This SimplyThick creation is an example of a thickening product that can make a huge difference.  

Make Sure There is a Routine and Consistency

It’s also important to make a consistent mealtime routine. This means eating meals at the same time every day so that your parent knows what to expect. You can even write out a schedule and post it somewhere visible if that helps.

Mealtime Needs to Be Calm and Free of Distraction

Then there is the setup that you have when eating a meal. You’ll want to remove any distractions from the room — this includes music, the television and other loud noises. The focus needs to be on the meal, and it should be a calm and inviting environment.

If you have children in the house, be sure they understand that mealtimes aren’t for fooling around and playing; they’re for sitting at the table and enjoying their food. Be prepared for mealtimes to take longer, even up to an hour, for your parent to finish.

Understand Some Foods May Not Be Appealing to Them Any More

The final tip is to be flexible in that your parent may suddenly develop food intolerances, dislikes and aversions. Rather than question it, it’s best to accept it and feed them something more palatable and to their liking.

By using all of these tips, you’ll be able to drastically reduce the stress surrounding mealtimes, making it a more enjoyable experience for your parent and you.

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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