Eating and drinking

8. Eating environment

The environment plays an important part in the eating and drinking experience. It can affect how much a person enjoys eating and the amount they eat. A good mealtime experience can have a positive impact on the person's health and wellbeing.

Improving the eating environment: tips for carers

  • Eat with the person if they enjoy eating with company. This will help make eating a social activity and can also help maintain independence as they may be able to copy you.
  • Make the environment as appealing to the senses as possible. Familiar sounds of cooking, smells of the kitchen and food, and familiar sights such as tablecloths with flowers can all help.
  • Keep the table free from clutter.
  • A noisy environment can be distracting. The eating environment should be calm and relaxing. Switch off background noise.
  • Playing soothing music at mealtimes can help.
  • Be led by the person on when they prefer to eat. Some people like a light lunch and larger evening meal and others prefer a main meal in the middle of the day.
  • Let the person with dementia choose where they sit and eat. They should also be able to choose what they want to eat, within reason.
  • Some people with dementia will also have problems with their sight. They may not be able to see the food in front of them. Make sure the food is colourful and the environment is well lit. It may also help to give a verbal description of the food.
  • Use colour to support the person - the colours of the food, plate and table should contrast and be plain (eg a green table cloth, a red plate and mashed potato). Avoiding patterned plates is important.
  • Try not to worry about mess - it's more important for the person to eat than to be tidy. Wipe clean mats and covers may help.
  • It's important the person doesn't feel rushed and they are given enough time to eat.