Jan 15, 2024

Top 10 tips to ensure dignified mealtimes for someone living with dementia

Discover our 10 top tips for dignified mealtimes for someone living with dementia, in partnership with Kate Thubron of Mindful Care Consultancy

One of the biggest aspects of caring for someone with dementia is helping them to retain a sense of dignity whilst also making sure that they are safe, content and benefiting from a positive environment. So, if you’re thinking about dementia and mealtimes and how you can provide a positive, safe atmosphere, we’ve compiled 10 top tips. 


1. Set the scene 

One of the biggest elements of providing person-centred care is providing a warm, homely environment for residents so that it feels like just that – a real home. Therefore, when it comes to dementia and mealtimes, it’s important to ensure that the dining room is inviting, welcoming, and has a family and familiar feel to it. The environment should also provide sensory cues that it is time for a meal. 

2. Consider the tableware and crockery 

Use plain tablecloths, placement and crockery. Patterned tableware can potentially cause confusion and visual disturbances. Additionally, ensure that the plate and tablecloth are different tonal colours, and make sure the food is a different colour to the plate. For example, white mashed potato on a white plate may prove difficult to be seen properly.  

3. Make decisions at the appropriate time 

It’s best to avoid asking the person what they would like for a meal in advance, for example in the morning after they have had breakfast. Given that people living with dementia have trouble with their short-term memory, they will often struggle to remember what it was they requested. So, instead, where possible allow the person to choose the food they want to eat at the time they will be eating it.

4. Visual choices 

Provide visual choices at mealtimes; this may be in the form of a visual menu or perhaps even showing plated-up meals to the person so that they have the opportunity to use all their senses to decide what they would like to eat.

5. Presentation of meals  

Be sure to present meals in a nice and appetising manner, including pureed meals. If you find yourself in this situation, ask yourself whether you would be happy to receive and eat the meals provided. 

presentation at mealtimes is key

When considering presentation and it’s importance think to yourself: would you want to eat the meal if it were offered to you?

6. Appropriate protective clothing 

Always give choice on whether someone would like to wear protective clothing for mealtimes, but in so doing, always make sure that these options are dignified and not childlike. For example, you could offer a dining scarf.  

7. Finger foods 

As people age, it’s not uncommon for their appetites to diminish, but for an older person living with dementia at mealtimes, ensuring a balanced, nutritional diet is more important than ever to ensure they are not only avoiding malnutrition but also receiving all the nutrients needed for the body and the mind to function as well as possible. So, for those who find it difficult to eat a full meal, providing finger foods might be more beneficial.

8. Family mealtimes 

As mentioned earlier, providing a warm and homely environment is essential for resident happiness and quality of life. Making it feel like a real home is essential, so sit, eat and engage with residents whenever and wherever possible at mealtimes as a family. Do not stand at the side and watch. 

If you can find the time, sit and eating with the residents you care for will help to provide a sense of a family environment

9. Opportunities for independence 

It’s important, where possible, to provide opportunities for independence. For example, this could be serving vegetables from a self-serving bowl on the table, using adapted cutlery or putting sugar in their tea with assistance. Little things like this often go a long way to helping someone retain a sense of independence and bolster their mood.  

10. Hand under Hand 

Become aware of the Teepa Snows Hand under Hand technique to help those needing assistance with mealtimes. The Hand under Hand technique was developed as a means of providing a guiding and assisting technique that provides family members, caregivers and care home staff a meaningful connection to the person they’re caring for by promoting a connection through physical touch that is friendly, comforting and impactful without being intrusive or overbearing. 

Providing person-centred care is often about understanding the little human elements that can be the real difference-making aspects of care. Oomph! Wellbeing Training empowers staff to gain expertise while at the same time having a positive impact on CQC reports and exceeding regulatory requirements. Read here for more information on Wellbeing Training for staff, as well as the Wellbeing and Activities Platform.

January 15, 2024

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