With the rise in Alzheimer’s disease and its special impact on women, more families are celebrating Mother’s Day with moms who have dementia. Nearly two-thirds of the Americans with Alzheimer’s are women, whose greater life expectancy means they are more likely than men to develop dementia. While brunch is a much-savored Mother’s Day tradition, dementia can make dining difficult. An expert offers important tips for honoring Mom with a holiday meal that will be a delicious and delightful experience for all.
“Smell and taste often diminish, making meals less enjoyable and many times leading to loss of interest in food,” said Kelly Scott, vice president of Emeritus Senior Living, the nation’s largest memory care provider. She notes that currently, 16 percent of female Americans age 71 and above have the disease.
“As dementia progresses, it can also become physically difficult to eat,” Scott said. “Those with the disease may begin to have trouble using utensils. Their depth perception could be affected, making it hard to manage food on a plate and lift it to the mouth. Chewing and swallowing can become problems. But there are a number of ways to address these issues so you and your mother can have a lovely occasion.”
If you’d like to serve your memory-impaired mom a special meal at home on Mother’s Day, Scott says the following approaches can be helpful:
- Plan a menu of your mother’s favorite fare, even if it’s not what you would normally prepare at that time of day, and remind her that she has always loved it. This will help spark her interest in eating.
- Bring the meal out one item at a time so it’s easier to focus on it: for example, first the fruit salad, then the French toast, and then the bacon.
- Create color contrast between the tablecloth, the plates, and the food being served, so each is easy to visually distinguish.
- Set the table with shallow bowls with wide brims rather than flat plates or deep bowls for all of the fare; they’re easy and neat to dine from.
- Provide utensils with large, easy-to-grasp handles.
- Consider dispensing with utensils and offering the meal finger-food style, so that flatware doesn’t have to be managed. An egg dish could become an egg sandwich.
- Give your mother her beverages in the same kind of glasses that others are using, but provide a straw to make them easier to sip.
• If possible, choose a restaurant that your mother is already familiar with.
• Go at an off-peak time and even consider celebrating on a different day, rather than Mother’s Day Sunday, to reduce the noise and distractions that can come of being in a crowded place.
• Create and bring a menu for your mother to look at that offers just two meal choices, rather than overwhelm her with selecting from the restaurant’s menu.
• Expect that when the food is brought to the table, your mother may not recall what she ordered and might wish to have what you selected. It’s best to let her have your dish, rather than try to remind her that it’s not what she picked.
• Realize that your mother may eat very slowly and don’t try to rush her.
“Mother’s Day is a wonderful and important tradition and Alzheimer’s disease shouldn’t keep you from celebrating with your mother,” Scott said. “The key is thinking ahead to making her dining experience as easy as possible. This way, she and everyone at the table can focus on what matters most, which is sharing special time together on this joyous occasion.”
SOURCE: Emeritus Senior Living, now known as Brookdale Senior Living.