Dementia and Eating

4 Tips to Get Someone With Dementia to Eat

Seeing meals left unfinished can be a frustration to caregivers. The person with dementia may simply become distracted mid-meal.


  • Serve at a table setting that features minimal distractions. This reduces confusion over where to place attention, as well as the odds of some foods being overlooked.

  • Ideally, use a solid-colored placemat that contrasts with the table color, and a white plate that contrasts with the placemat and allows the food to take center stage.

  • Bright or contrasting solids, rather than prints and patterns, tend to draw focus best.

  • Place only small amounts of food on the plate at a time. Refill as necessary.

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 3 years, said...

I will try the suggestions. It is very frustrating to prepare a meal and not have it eaten. Then within an hour the person wants to know when it is time to eat.

over 4 years, said...

We decided, the Doctor, my sister and I, first: to stock mom's fridge with snacks, nutritive as well as treats. The Doc also said to encourage her to nosh rather than eat three meals. In her case it was very effective! She gained back weight and began to be much more engaged and lively over all. Since her dementia tho' is still at early stage; hence our good luck - thus far! Her eating problems have now been handled by making sure she has Ensure drinks, crackers, small ice creams. yogurt, low sugar candies and cookies, fresh fruit, cold cuts, cheese, soup, canned fruit cocktail in light syrup, hard boiled eggs. And when I come by I usually bring along sandwiches sliced in interesting diagonal portions, or a good soup. I will unpack onto the table, then urge her to help me put things away; that activity alone is often will get her in a 'food mood'. I keep a 'Mom List", and as I pull items out of the bag I'll say, "Here are the garlic crackers you enjoyed so much with the cheese? You asked me to buy them again: I brought some more." I remind her of what she liked (so far her memory is sufficient on that score) and introduce new foods in very small, sample batches. I put a fork and spoon out, so that as things are unwrapped she will feel free to try them. I'll say something like, "This salmon was great when I Ric and I fixed it, so I bought it again to make for you." I also admit it: I tried the food stylist angle, with bright lemon and tomato slices, cucumber, green peas or broccoli, and against the orange salmon she was attracted by the colors and flavors. No, it does not always work, but experiment and you may find ideas that will give your older loved one "the munchies" once more!

over 4 years, said...

I believe this will help me when preparing meals for my wife. I also find that she may be forgetting how to use forks,knives, etc. So finger foods help too.

over 4 years, said...

This is five stars !!! Was having this problem with my dear Mom. Thank you for the suggestions.

about 5 years, said...

Using the solid colors to help the focal point of the food.

over 6 years, said...

Gave me ideas that I had not thought of previously.

over 6 years, said...

It doesn't appy here. I have found that if I give him a plate on a tray and he eats in a chair in my room, he has no problem eating all of his food.