Memory Care – Is it really time?? Article 4 in the Series

By Laurie Ray, MSW, CMSW, C-ASWCM

This is my fourth and final blog post on touring a memory care unit. Today we will discuss dining.  To some that may seem like a smaller piece of the memory care puzzle, but I consider it to be equally important.  Prior to even entertaining such a significant move you may have noticed some changes to you parent’s or loved one’s eating habits, appetite, or interest in food at all.

Were there earlier signs of a problem?

It is not uncommon for families to become more acutely aware of their parent’s memory loss when dining out.  My mother was a perfect example. Always seated next to me we would peruse the menu together, I would point out items I know she might like but when it came right down to ordering more often than not she would reply “I’ll have what you are having”.  My mom always covered her loss well smiled politely, and remembered her pleases & thank you‘s.


There are multiple challenges when eating in what we might consider to be a normal setting – such as my parents were joining us with other family members for dinner. They happily sat at the dinner table together.  They would whisper to each other when they were unsure of something. One of their biggest challenges was knowing what everything on the table was for. Wrapped candies looked like butter to them. It soon became apparent that they needed a simplified dining experience.  Despite my mother’s years of setting the perfect table she was no longer able to understand multiple forks, spoons, plates, and serving dishes. The choices were overwhelming! As much as we want to continue to see our parents as they once were it is important to acknowledge their challenges and adapt to their reality rather than expecting them to continue to live comfortably in ours.


When it comes to memory care you may have many questions about dining, but it could be that you’ve been overwhelmed with other more important details. Assessments, applications, medical paperwork, medications, what furniture to bring, private or semi-private, clothing, and of course help them understand the need to move. Dining may seem like a minor piece of this complicated puzzle, but it is a big part of their day. It is nutrition but it is also an activity, socialization, and stimulation.

So when living in memory care how do the residents choose their meals? Is it off a menu, are they assisted with making choices, is everyone fed the same meal, and are choices even offered?  How are their diet and dining needs being accommodated? Every community has its own approach. Meals may arrive in the unit already prepared, limiting their options


Here you go – multiple considerations when determining whether dining needs can be met:


  • Meals offering a choice, menus to navigate, staff assistance
  • Can the family select their menu choices for the week
  • Does their care plan include what foods they do or do not like
  • Use of utensils vs. finger foods
  • Does the staff assist the residents to their meals to ensure that they are able to eat despite not remembering when or how to get to the dining room
  • Can family members join them during meal times to assist as needed or to provide companionship
  • Does a staff member sit with any residents that may need prompting and encouragement to eat
  • Are snacks and drinks freely available and encouraged regardless of time of day
  • Is a private dining room available for family use
  • How do they ensure adequate hydration and nutrition
  • Is a dietician on staff and can they meet specific dietary needs
  • Is a nutritionist available
  • Can the community provide specialized diets like diabetic, low sodium, or low fat
  • Can the community meet the long term changes to the president’s ability to eat including mechanical soft, pureed, any type of artificial feeding or hydration
  • Can they provide thickened liquids, nutritional supplements
  • At what point may the facility consider the resident no longer appropriate for their community due to their dietary challenges
  • Schedules – ask questions such as how to they manage a resident who is up at night, hungry, active, etc.
  • Is alcohol allowed and if so how is it provided

Click here to read article one in the series. 

Click here to read article two in the series.

Click here to read article three in the series.

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