With the wonderful warmer weather we have been having over lockdown, enjoying summer eating has been high on people’s agendas. When you are catering for someone with dementia there are lots of tricks of the trade that can make alfresco meals much more rewarding for all involved.
- Always use plain blankets if possible, as the contrast with the ground will help with orientation. Similarly, use plates and cutlery that contrast with the floor and the food so that people can see clearly what they are eating.
- Let your loved one choose what they want to eat. Try not to worry if they choose odd combinations or want pudding first – it should be a relaxed affair. Let go of expectations about how a picnic should be!
- Make sure that any food that is served hot is not too hot; sometimes those with dementia have difficulty judging temperature and being outside can make this even more tricky.
- Offer a variety of foods that will cater to any whims – remember often what was enjoyed last week may not be enjoyed this week.
- Think of including foods that stimulate your loved one’s memory or senses. In my father’s case, a strongly smelling stilton would always start him reminiscing about great cheeses he had enjoyed! Another friend’s father loved parkin, a kind of syrupy tray bake, which he loved to bake when he was younger.
Ideas for food
Finger foods are fun and less messy than more formal meals.
- Try slices of pizza, quiche or garlic bread.
- Sandwiches cut into small squares, triangles or rolled into a sausage shape (these can be easier to pop into the mouth than other shapes).
- Use high-calorie and protein fillings such as egg mayonnaise, tuna mayonnaise meat or fish paste, corned beef, cold meats, cheese or peanut butter.
- Scones with butter jam and cream, teacakes with butter, crumpets with honey.
- Fruit or chocolate muffins, cereal bars, biscuits, individual cake slices, jam tarts, mini fruit pies, bakewell tarts.
- Ice cream in cones, choc ices, ice pops or ice lollies (if you’re picnicking in the garden and can pop to the freezer easily).
- Pieces of fruit or vegetables such as sticks of carrot.
As ever, make sure your loved one keeps hydrated. Use clear cups and put them where the person can see them. Be creative with other ways to keep hydrated such as ice-cream and fruit.
Summer foods also offer the perfect chance for loved ones to help with prep. Slicing up fruit such as bananas (with a simple, blunt knife), washing veg, decorating cupcakes and filling sandwiches are all activities which help wellbeing – being useful, strengthening and exercising muscles, allowing a little creativity (arranging fruit attractively on a platter).