" It’s very easy to become distracted [when we eat]. Most of us like to enjoy food and drinks with the people we care about. But for individuals with dementia, it’s really important to try to minimize distractions during mealtime: being in a quieter environment, not having the television on, maybe [playing] soft music in the background, thinking carefully about the number of eating partners and the expectations during the meal. Are you expecting this individual to actually converse with you and trying to keep conversation there for the social aspects of mealtime, but not having that be distracting. I’m sure many of your viewers will have had the experience where you’re trying to talk and swallow at the same time, it can be really difficult to coordinate those things. So, minimizing distractions as much as possible is important.
[We should] also be thinking about positioning for the patient. We lay back in a chair, we relax while we’re eating and sometimes we might even be lying down — those are not optimal positions. As much as possible, you want your loved one to be seated upright so that they can be in a really good position for eating and swallowing.
Gravity also plays an important role in moving materials through the mouth and the throat and the esophagus. Being upright will help to move things through the esophagus into the stomach more effectively.
Depending on the stage of progression, feeding techniques can also be really useful. Depending on whether the individual is able to feed themselves, we do try to encourage independence with feeding as much as possible.
If the individual is struggling to get food or liquid up to the mouth, there are different kinds of utensils that can be used to facilitate that.
[We should] also [think] about the visual presentation of food. If someone is on a pureed diet and you give them something that really looks unappetizing like giving pureed meats in a bowl when typically that wouldn’t be how they would eat meat, there can be an aversion to eating that. Thinking about the way that you present things that is visually appealing and also consistent with what the individual is used to are all important strategies. "