Ensuring a nutritious diet for elderly and people living with dementia is actually the least we can do.
The importance of healthy eating for our older generation resonated with me when I accepted an
invitation to attend the National Association of Care Catering Christmas meeting. My host, a
community meals provider chatted his way through the two hour journey to York, expressing his
company’s commitment to providing nutritious food. Finishing with their ‘safe and well’ procedure,
the narrative was a wonderful insight into a service which warmed my heart at the care behind
centre providers and frontline carers, the most talked about issue after nutrition, was the difficulty in
encouraging people to eat.
Dementia can affect a person’s relationship to food, impacting on their eating habits, meal-times
and food choices. Finding their way to the dining room, managing cutlery or swallowing can
become difficult for some people.
Enriched social care can play a big part in enhancing a person’s well-being.
At Happy Days ~
Dementia Workshop, we believe that ‘You can’t care for a person until you care about them ~ and
to care about them, you must know who they are.’ Many residential care home managers are keen
to show me their ‘One-Person-Plan’ which often doesn’t include meal-time favourites or absolute
contradict myself, some people with dementia change preferences away from their known
favourites, may not recognise hunger or have no desire to eat. That’s why we’ve created Happy
Days Memory Joggers, colourful resources with response areas to collate and edit food favourites
- handy for residents, carers and families to share information about favourites.
Meal-times are not only about the delivery of nutritious food, they are about encouraging someone
to want to eat and ensuring that they do. If a resident suddenly shows an aversion to eating, we
know to check denture fit, medication, illness, signs of anxiety or depression – but it may just be
that a person has forgotten about eating or not recognise the food on their plate.
Prompting experiences around eating and drinking may help. People with dementia still have
feelings and may respond to visual images linked to the senses; a freshly cut loaf may signify the
smell of newly baked bread and prompt taste buds, preparing the person to eat. Taste, textures
and conversational prompts around the subject of food, eating and food favourites can also help to
Happy Days nostalgic food corridors, dining room displays and Time to Chat
memory prompts have been designed to help social interaction, prompting peoples’ appetites and
eating habits for healthy living.
Encouraging people to engage in daily activities is another way to promote the idea of meal times
Laying the tables
Share out cards with menu images to residents before lunch
Placing daily menu images at the entrance to the dining area
Develop Happy Days nostalgic food corridor, dresser or wall display
Use dining, food and drink images in or near to dining areas
Reminder signs – Rehydrate ~ Drink Water
I was pleased to hear about the ‘safe and well’ checks provided by community meal services.
Eating alone can be a lonely experience. Linking up with volunteer visiting and befriending
organisations may be the way forwards in overseeing people who live alone eat well. Sometimes,
just the company of another person is all that is needed to encourage eating and to help initiate
conversations around food: ‘Dinner’s Ready’ by Happy Days, a collection of nostalgic food and
drink prompts can help to generate conversations and thoughts around lunch, dinner and
By making a few creative refinements, we might help to keep mealtimes as enjoyable and stress
free as possible. People may not always remember what you said but they will always remember
how you made them feel.
Gillian Hesketh MA
Happy Days ~ Dementia
Workshop www.dementiaworkshop.co.uk Phone