Dining with Dementia: Food Menu Program Tips for Focused Mealtimes


Adapting an assisted living facility food menu program to meet the needs of adults with dementia can be a challenge.

Food menu program tips

Anything can be a distraction at mealtime for these residents, and it’s often difficult for caregivers to know whether someone who has dementia simply isn’t hungry or if they’re unaware of their need to eat.

The dining experience and surroundings can play a significant role in how well adults with dementia eat. For more focused mealtimes at your assisted living facility, look to the practical approach used in food menu programs.

Have a Dedicated Dining Space

For adults who dementia, visual cues can act as reminders that mealtime is about to take place. Having a specific room or designated space for dining can help develop familiarity and encourage appetite.

Create a Relaxed Environment

Mealtime distractions can make dining with dementia more difficult. Your assisted living facility residents will be better able to concentrate on their food if the environment is relaxed and free of excessive noise.

For more focused mealtimes, eliminate non-essentials — including napkin holders and centerpieces. Provide stable chairs with armrests to aid mobility and replace the television with soothing, quiet music.

Choose High-Contrast Dishes

Many older adults have vision problems, and those who have dementia may have visual-spatial difficulties. If your residents can’t see their food clearly, they’ll be less likely to eat.

Swapping out basic white dinnerware for high-contrast dishes may help boost food consumption and improve nutrition for residents dining with dementia.

Limit Dining Utensils

Too many utensil choices at mealtime can frustrate adults who have dementia. Offering just one utensil at a time – either a spoon or fork – may help allow for more focused mealtimes. Instead of putting out the full table setting, only set out the utensil that is needed or preferred.

Most advanced dementia patients can’t use a knife anyway, so ensure that menu items are bite-sized, or have food service staff cut the food up before serving.

Serve Several Smaller Meals

Serving up a full, well-balanced breakfast, lunch and dinner every day works to meet the nutritional needs of most assisted living facility residents. For adults dining with dementia, however, too much food at once can bring about confusion. Try offering one course at a time or serving half portions for more focused mealtimes and better overall nutrition.

Meeting the nutritional needs of assisted living facility residents who have dementia requires taking a flexible approach to mealtime. Food menu preferences and dining abilities often change as dementia progresses, so meals and snacks may need to be adapted.

The Grove Menus software system, with a suite of user-friendly food menu program tools, includes hundreds of delicious dietitian-approved recipes that can easily be adjusted for special menu requirements and diet extensions. Contact us today for a complimentary, hassle-free demonstration of how our food menu program can help provide better nutrition to residents who are dining with dementia.