| Management Strategies
- Try and find ways to make the eating process easier, such as utensils with easy grip-handles, non-slip mats, bowls instead of plates or cups with lids. This will prevent the person you care for from getting frustrated, tired or giving up. Additionally, by making it easier to eat by themselves, you will improve their feelings of independence and self-esteem. If the person you care for finds eating with utensils to be difficult and frustrating, try and encourage finger foods such as small sandwiches, chicken fingers, vegetables such as string beans or carrot strips that can be eaten without utensils or nutritious smoothies that they can drink.
- Be alert to potential safety issues, such as the person forgetting to turn off the stove after cooking and the increased risk of choking because of chewing and swallowing problems that may arise as the disease progresses. Try to avoid foods that may be difficult to swallow, or cause choking (i.e., nuts, fruits with seeds (e.g. cherries), and popcorn). Instead, you might try offering purees, smoothie drinks or soft foods such as eggs, yogurt or cottage cheese that require minimal chewing. Also, ensure that foods and liquids are not too hot or too cold, because the person you care for may have difficulty telling the temperature.
- When the person is eating, encourage them to chew slowly and prompt them to swallow if they forget. Avoid physically assisting them if verbal cues are enough. This will help to maintain their feelings of independence and self worth.
- Often it is necessary to provide the person with instructions on how to eat if they seem confused or seem to have forgotten. Simple, one step instructions such as "pick up your spoon," and "put rice on your spoon" often work best. Sometimes it may even help to demonstrate what you want them to do, or put your hand over theirs to guide them. Try and involve them in as much of the eating process as possible and let them do as much as they can on their own.
- Remember that there is no need to rush or hurry the person. This will only make them anxious or agitated, which will make it difficult for them to finish the meal. Allow them plenty of time to complete their meal. They are trying their best, so it is important for you to stay encouraging and positive.
- Minimize distractions during mealtimes. For example, turn off the television or radio, and eliminate unneeded items from the table.
- Maintain familiar routines and rituals, but be flexible and adapt to the person's changing needs.
- Offer appealing foods that have familiar flavours, varied textures, and different colours, and give the person opportunities to make choices.