Imagine you could no longer eat your favorite foods.
What if you could only safely eat foods that you did not recognize, didn’t smell good, taste good or were too dry, foods that were not at all appetizing?
What if you could only eat foods with a spoon, or worse yet, if you needed to wear a bib and be fed by someone else by spoon?
Up to 68% of residents in long-term care facilities have difficulty swallowing and this is what many of them live with on a daily basis.
But they don’t have to.
Here are seven simple things you can do to bring dignity back to the dining room for people who need modified diets and assistance eating.
Offer a variety of appetizing foods, foods that are colorful and recognizable, foods that are full of flavor, offer residents their favorite foods.
Research shows that when you recognize the food on your plate, the brain sends signals to the stomach to get ready to digest that particular food. It’s important to know what you’re eating to get the maximum nutrition and benefit from it.
2. Offer foods that can be eaten with a fork or finger foods.
Being fed can make you feel like a burden and turn eating into a mechanical process. There’s no enjoyment in that. Offering foods that can be eaten with a fork or fingers can promote independence in eating (benefiting residents and staff).
Use red dishware to help stimulate the appetite.
The red shows the contrast between food and drinks and allows residents to more easily recognize them. See your local medical supply store to see samples.
Make it social – bring people together in a group setting.
People tend to eat more when they are in a group vs eating alone.
Offer dining scarves instead of bibs.
Check out these elegant dining scarves from Diner Wear.
Comb hair and brush teeth.
A group of nursing home residents was asked what was most important to them in their daily routine. Their answer? Having their hair combed and teeth brushed. Helping a person with dementia maintain their appearance can promote positive self-esteem.
Refer to residents who need assist as “Dependent Diners” – NOT “feeders.”
Consider the language you use to refer to residents that need assistance. Referring to someone as a “feeder” is dehumanizing and disrespectful. “Dependent Diner” is a much more elegant and respectful term.
These simple changes can be easily incorporated into your daily dining program, bringing dignity back to those residents on modified diets and who need assistance with eating.
Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a condition that is misunderstood by the general public. In addition, the press often reports on many preliminary research findings (many of them of speculative and not reproduced) that adds to these misconceptions. Here are some facts about AD as we understand it currently:
First, Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disease. There has been a great deal of speculation concerning its cause; however, no research has been able to definitively identify a cause for AD. So if you read about certain causes of AD please understand that at the time of this writing there are no known definite causes (except perhaps for a rare familial form of AD), but there are a number of known risk factors that contribute to the probability of developing AD. Risk factors are not direct causes, but instead are contributory factors that add to the possibility that a person can develop a condition. There is an identifiable brain pathology associated with AD, but there is no known definitive cause for this pathology.
Second, despite what you may have read or heard, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is not 100% certain unless there has been a brain biopsy or an autopsy of the patient. At this time the pathology associated with AD can only be definitively identified via a histological examination of the brain. Clinicians can be quite accurate in the diagnosis (upwards of 90% accurate), but there are no tests or brain scanning techniques that can definitively diagnose AD at this time. Laboratory tests, medical examinations, neuropsychological testing, and brain scans can rule out other potential causes that mimic AD and help support the probable diagnosis of AD, but are not 100% accurate at the time of this writing.
Third, there is no cure for AD. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive dementia (gets worse over time) and is 100% fatal (although a number of elderly patients may die from other complications or conditions before succumbing to AD). What this means that if a person is diagnosed with AD it is akin to giving that person a death sentence. That is why it is very important to have a thorough examination of the patient if AD is suspected. Moreover, there are a number of other conditions that are reversible and can mimic dementia. Only a thorough examination can rule these out. The average expected lifespan for a person diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease is about seven to eight years. The course of AD can last anywhere from one to twenty years; however, only two to three percent will live longer than fifteen years.
Fourth, there is no way to certainly predict if a person will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Recently, there have been a number of very interesting studies using PET scanning (Positron Emission Tomography, a brain imaging technique that helps determine certain levels of brain activity) and other brain scanning techniques that demonstrate promise in identifying individuals at risk to develop AD; however, these at risk individuals do not all develop dementia.
Five, Alzheimer’s disease appears to have several subtypes. As we learn more about the brain and its disorders new discoveries are being made every day that add to our knowledge. AD does not appear to have the same progression in every individual and in part this may reflect either the different subtypes of AD or normal individual variation. Thus, when this article or any article describes the progression of AD please remember that these are generalities. As with any disease there is individual variation in the symptoms and presentation related to disease onset, course, and progression. If you would like to learn more about this disease take a look at the in-depth article here.
One of my favorite Think Outside the Blender techniques is to use foods that are naturally soft, like bananas. They are especially soft when they are ripe and easily mashed with a fork. I left the slices whole (in different sizes) to give the presentation some shape and height. And strawberries and bananas are always a great pairing!
1 cup of fresh strawberries, stems removed
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp honey or agave
1 ripe banana, sliced
Cut up strawberries and place on a plate in a single layer, cover with plastic wrap and freeze. Blend frozen strawberries, lime juice and honey or agave until smooth. Scoop strawberry sorbet into bowl or on a plate and add sliced bananas, or layer into a parfait glass.
Sriracha is a flavorful (but not too spicy) red pepper sauce. I’ve used it in this soup to give it an extra kick of flavor.
1 cup dried yellow split peas, rinsed and drained
5 cups water
1/3 cup each: diced carrots, diced celery and chopped onions
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste
Heat olive oil in a soup pot. Add yellow split peas, water, carrots, celery and onions. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste and then blend. Serve soup in bowls and top with a few drops of sriracha.