Dear Donna:

I’m the primary caregiver for my husband, who has Alzheimer’s. Among the many challenges the disease presents is eating. He struggles to manipulate utensils but gets upset if I try to help him. I need to come up with some foods that are nutritious but easy for my husband to eat independently. Do you have any suggestions for healthy foods to serve adults with Alzheimer’s?

The other challenge I’m trying to overcome is how to encourage my husband to eat. I just can’t get him to sit down and eat at mealtimes. Because of it, he continues to lose weight.

I’m in need of some good advice, so any tips you can share would be much appreciated!


Alice in Williamsport, MI

Menu Planning When a Loved One Has Alzheimer’s

Dear Alice:

What great questions! We often hear these from family caregivers. Because Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, nutrition challenges continue to worsen as time goes by.

First, let’s tackle why your husband might not be eating. In addition to being frustrated by his lack of manual dexterity like you mentioned, your husband might be experiencing vision changes.

Adults with Alzheimer’s often develop problems with depth perception and color discrimination. That can make it tough to see food served on a plate or bowl of similar color. Diced peaches served in a pale pink or yellow bowl, for example, can be tough to see.

Other common reasons adults with Alzheimer’s disease might not seem interested in eating include:

  • A distracting dining environment, such as one that is cluttered or has background noise
  • A loss of sense of smell or taste
  • A lack of interest in food due to medication side effects or undiagnosed depression
  • Dentures that no longer fit properly or a problem with a tooth that makes chewing painful

A few steps you can take to encourage your husband’s interest in food might be:

  • Changing the dining environment: Create a peaceful, clutter-free place for him to eat. If he responds positively to music, play it softly in the background. It also helps to use brightly colored dishes that make food easier to distinguish. The Red Plate Study at Boston University found people with Alzheimer’s ate 25 percent more food if it was presented on red dinnerware.
  • Using adaptive dinnerware: Talk with your husband’s primary care physician or an occupational therapist about adaptive dinnerware. Plate guards and food bumpers, for example, make it easier for food to be scooped up with a utensil. Large utensils with grips also help.
  • Utilizing aromatherapy: Since taste can fade with Alzheimer’s, serving more flavorful foods may help. Going a little heavier on seasonings might offer an aromatherapeutic value that pumps up appetite. While it might taste like too much seasoning to you, someone with Alzheimer’s might find it just right.
  • Encouraging exercise: Engaging in some form of exercise each day may help stimulate your husband’s appetite. Talk with his primary care doctor for advice on what types of fitness activities might be safest.
  • Scheduling a dental appointment: If your husband hasn’t seen the dentist in a while, it’s probably a good idea to schedule an appointment. The dentist can check for any issues that might impact eating.

As far as easy-to-eat foods to serve your husband, “Healthy Finger Foods for Seniors with Dementia” is a great resource to read and bookmark. It has a variety of ideas ranging from French toast sticks to smoothies.

I hope this information is helpful to you and your husband!

Kind regards,