Techniques To Cut Down on Messy Eating for People with Alzheimer’s

Easy-to-handle foods and utensils can make mealtime easier.


- Posted on Nov 22, 2019

An older gentleman's daughter helps him eat soup at the table.

This article is based on information provided by Home Instead Senior Care.

Dementia can make it hard for your loved one to manipulate utensils, cups, glasses and dishes. He or she may have developed messy eating habits as a result of various factors related to the condition. Among the possible causes are loss of control and attentiveness and diminished attention to hygiene and self-care.

The following tips may help you to have more manageable mealtimes with your loved one:

· Minimize expectations and try not to focus too much on the person who is eating messily.

· Put down a vinyl tablecloth, which can be cleaned off after each use, or paper placemats which can be tossed away.

· Put a napkin in his or her lap before eating.

· Cut up foods prior to serving them.

· Avoid “risky” foods, such as sauces and condiments (mustard, ketchup, mayo). Put seasonings on the dishes before presenting the meal.

· Hand your loved one a “spork,” a combination spoon-fork often sold in camping stores.

· Offer finger foods that don’t require utensils. You could try chicken nuggets, little meatballs, pizza rolls, mozzarella sticks, sandwiches cut into quarters.

· At the beginning of the meal, offer the finger-foods all around, so that your loved one doesn’t feel singled out.

· If you’re having soup, put it in a mug, rather than a bowl, and let it cool a bit first.

· Put food on unbreakable dishes or heavy ironstone that’s less apt to slide around.

· Use plastic cups instead of glass or ceramic ones.

· Present only one or two foods at a time.

· Serve liquids in a cup with a spout (available in some hospital-supply stores), or pour only a small amount at a time into a small cup.

· If your loved one has a blunder (a spilled cup of soup), don’t shame or blame. You could casually say, “Oh, Mom, that soup is so messy, let me just dab it off you.” 

· Keep clothing clean by washing out stains at night, since people with Alzheimer’s are prone to wearing the same items repeatedly.

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