Why Therapeutic Dining Works

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” -Virginia Woolf

therapeutic dining for dementia

I recently was out dining with some friends and when the waiter delivered our dinners my reaction was, “this meal is just too pretty to eat."

I literally hesitated before delving into my salmon dish avoiding all destruction of the chef’s artistic presentation. The truth was the dish was so pretty that even if the meal was mediocre, I overlooked it.

For me, the presentation influenced my dining experience in a positive way.

The concept of using a therapeutic dining approach, for people with dementia, can not only make the dining experience more pleasant but encourage the individual to eat better. Overall it the best time to nourish not only their bodies but their spirit.

This is especially true for individuals whose disease has affected their ability and desire to eat. There are many reasons why someone may show signs of a decreased  appetite while these are just a few:

  • Depression
  • Do not recognize the food on their plate
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Medication side effects 

Just using some very basic ideas in enhancing the dining experience can  benefit the individual.

This is especially important for individuals with cognitive and memory challenges.

The example of serving cottage cheese on a plate as seen in the photos below demonstrates the better option in the second photo.

therapeutic dining for dementiatherapeutic dining for dementia

Why on the pink plate? Visually they can see the food better and it’s just more appealing using flowers and color.

What else can you do to enhance the experience?

Here are some tips:

  • Serve smaller portions (too much food is overwhelming)
  • Good lighting
  • Contrasting plate colors to food items to help with better recognition
  • Music that is appealing but not too distracting can inspiring eating
  • Flowers always inspire positive feelings
  • Use familiar items on the table like family salt & pepper shakers
  • Limit the number of utensils and extra plates
  • Serve liquids in smaller cups and refill if possible
  • Prepare food in smaller pieces as individual shows signs of difficulty in chewing
  • Use adaptive equipment such as scoop plates and adaptive utensil to prevent spillage which promotes more independence and dignity

While we spend on average of 1 hour and 20 minutes each day eating at mealtime it may not seem that much in comparison to all the other activities we do. This time is probably the most important for all the obvious reasons so why shouldn’t we use it in the most positive and enhancing way.

So, when we think of food and eating we must remember the one person that best understood the therapeutic value of dining

 “People who love to eat are always the best people. - Julia Child”

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