Dementia tips for enjoying a Mother's Day Meal

Mother's Day is in March. So are you going out with your Mum? Or preparing a meal at home? Here are some tips for the special day. With the increase in Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on women, more families are celebrating Mother’s Day with their mums who have dementia. Approximately 61% of of those who have Alzheimer’s in the UK are women, with men being the remaining 39%. Women have a greater life expectancy than men which means they are more likely than men to develop dementia. Mother’s Day lunch/dinner has become a UK tradition, however dementia can make the dining experience difficult. Given my own personal experience I have compiled and created an ongoing list of tips which has proven helpful. Sadly, smell and taste can often diminish with dementia, which makes meals less enjoyable and so with time can lead to a loss of interest in food. And as the dementia advances, it can also become physically hard for the person to eat and so those who have dementia may start to have trouble using cutlery and utensils. Their perception of depth can be affected, making it much harder to manage the food on their plate and lift it slowly to their mouth. Chewing and swallowing can also become problematic. However, there are a number of things you can do to help address these issues.

Here are some tips for Mothers Day:Create a menu of your mother’s favourite food, even if it isn't what you'd normally prepare for her at that time of day. And remind her that she has always enjoyed eating it in the past. This with hope will hopefully reignite her interest in food and eating it. • Bring your food/meal out one item or course at a time. So it is easier to follow and focus on. • Create a colour contrast between the tablecloth and the plates and the food that is being served. So each is easy for the person who has dementia to visually distinguish and tell the difference. • Set the dinner table with shallow bowls with wide brims as they are easy and neat to eat from. Avoid flat plates or deep bowls. • Provide utensils with large, easy-to-grip handles. • Consider not using utensils and instead offer finger-food, instead of having to organise cutlery usage. • Give your mum her drinks in the same type of glasses that others are using. However, perhaps give your Mum a straw to make it easier for her to sip.

If you wish to take your mother/mum out to eat, here are some other mealtime tips: • Always choose a restaurant that your mum already knows and is already familiar with from previous visits. • Go at an off-peak time and maybe even think about celebrating on a different day to Mother's Day, to help reduce the noise and any distractions that can come of being in a busy overcrowded venue. • Create and take with you a menu for your mum to look over that offers just a few meal choices, rather than possibly overwhelming her with having to choose from the restaurant’s own menu. • Expect that when your food is brought to your dining table, your mum may not recall what she had ordered and might wish to have what you chose instead. If this happens, it is best to let her have your meal rather than trying to remind her of what she had chosen from the menu. • Realise and be patient that your Mum may eat very slowly and so do not try and rush her. Mother’s Day is a wonderful tradition and Alzheimer’s disease should not keep you from celebrating this important day with your mum. The key is thinking and planning ahead to help make her dining experience as easy and straightforward as possible. This way, everyone at the dinner table can focus on what matters the most, which is sharing the special day together.

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