Catering for dementia



Eating problems in dementia

Loss of appetite can occur for many reasons in a person with dementia and it can have many negative consequences on nutritional status and health. Some of the causes of reduced appetite and weight loss are:

  • Memory problems. In the latter stages of dementia, the brain may be damaged to the extent that the person no longer understands the need to eat when food is given to them
  • Dysphagia chewing. and swallowing may become difficult as dementia progresses
  • Manual dexterity. Manual dexterity may become affected meaning the person with dementia may find it difficult to use a knife and fork
  • Changes in food preference. These are often seen in people with dementia, either due to brain damage in specific regions or because the person has forgotten what they like or dislike
  • Depression. If depression is suspected, contact a GP, who will recommend treatment. The appetite should return once the depression lifts
  • Badly fitting dentures. This may make eating uncomfortable and so affect appetite. Regular dental care is important in ensuring that teeth and gums are clean, free of infection and that there is no discomfort
  • Lack of exercise. Lack of physical activity does not allow the person to work up an appetite. Try to encourage the person to take a walk or do some exercise during the day


Finger foods

Meal times are a familiar and social part of the day for residents, but for people living with dementia who have problems holding a knife and fork they can be stressful and difficult.


Finger foods are an ideal way to help residents maintain their independence, dignity, and a daily routine. They are prepared to be easy to eat with the hands, boost confidence and improve appetite. In addition, for those who find sitting at a table difficult and prefer to walk around at mealtimes, finger foods re helpful as they can be eaten on the go.


From breakfast and afternoon tea to supper and bedtime snacks, we have many finger food products for you to choose from. When serving finger foods for the first time, the tips below may help to ensure they are well received:

Transition phase

Introduce finger food options over a few days to help the person feel used to the new way of serving food.


It is always helpful to tailor the food to the individual—not just their likes and dislikes, but also their ability to manager different types of food.


Provide snacks in between meals that are also easy to hold and eat—this can help maintain an adequate intake.


Catering equipment

For those with dementia for whom manual dexterity is a problem, special cutlery and crockery may help to maintain independence while eating. Below are some tips for buying specialist crockery:

  • Plates should be non-patterned and of a colour that allows the plate to be distinguished from the food and table cloth. Alternatively, a coloured rim can indicate the edge of a plate. This enables the person with dementia (who may have diminished ability to perceive colour contrasts and depth) to focus on the food and is useful for many people with poor eyesight as well
  • Lightweight cutlery with large handles is easier to handle and control
  • Large handles on cups and bowls aid grip and heavy bases minimise tremor and spillage
  • Cups with spouts should be used with care, and should be avoided in those with swallowing difficulties
  • Plate guards and specially made rims can prevent food from sliding around or off the plate
  • Plastic place mats or suction cups may prevent the plate from sliding on the table

Three finger food recipes

Disclaimer: These guides are not intended to replace individual care plans or substitute the advice of health professionals such as a doctor or dietician. If you are in any doubt, please consult a qualified appropriate medical professional.

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