Soft Foods: Chewing and Swallowing

How to Safely Serve Soft Foods to Someone Who Has Trouble Chewing and Swallowing

Chewing and swallowing can grow more difficult as someone with dementia loses the ability to "read" the texture and temperature of food in the mouth. It becomes hard to know even when to chew or swallow. Deteriorating motor skills contribute to the problem.

When the time comes to serve soft foods, here's how to do it safely:

  • Be sure your loved one is sitting upright.

  • The body should be angled slightly forward, rather than backward (as is often the case in a bed or lounge chair), to avoid choking. Use pillows to prop up, if necessary.

  • The easiest foods to get down tend to have a smooth yet noticeable consistency, so yogurt or thicker purees are easier than liquids like thin soup.

  • Keep your loved one upright for 15 to 20 minutes after the meal is finished. This ensures that the food doesn't get lodged in the esophagus.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

almost 4 years, said...

I think my husband is in late intermediate stage of AD. I cut meat and vegetables into smaller and smaller pieces and had to be wet or slightly soupy. When he has a spoonful in his mouth, he rolls the food around inside, and I ask him if he has problem chewing or swallowing and he always says ok. It is always difficult to decipher what is going on but one thing I learn is to be very observant. One reason he is very slow in eating is he blows every spoon of cereal or anything like it is temperature hot before putting in his mouth! Thanks God he still can feed himself! For how long, nobody knows.

almost 5 years, said...

My husband has lately been chewing a bite of food, then opening for more food, but I do not realize that he has not swallowed the first. This goes on for a few bites. Then all of a sudden he explodes, chewed food going everywhere. Yuck! I now go slowly, asking after each bite if he has swallowed. He often says No, and then we wait.

about 5 years, said...

to be aware of the position of the body, and to keep them up for 15 min. after. to know that thicker foods are more easy to swallow than soup.

over 6 years, said...

I hadn't realized that people with alzheimers will eventually lose motor skills to even eat. Good to know info for when the time comes. So far, my dad is able to eat on his own. His stage is still considered early.

over 6 years, said...

This explained a lot of the changes in my mother's eating habits and the changes in her preferences in food types. This will help guide me when I fix food for her meals. Thanks!