Questions to Ask
Steps to Take
- Is the diet nutritionally balanced?
- Does the diet provide a variety of foods, tastes, colours and textures?
- Should the person be on a special diet for medical reasons (e.g., renal failure, etc.)?
- Is mobility or accessibility a problem?
- Is the person constipated?
- Are there signs of dehydration?
- Are there signs of chewing and/or swallowing problems?
- Do dentures fit properly?
- What can be done to make mealtimes a more pleasant experience?
- How do current medications interact with food?
- What are the side effects of the medications? Any nausea, dry mouth?
- Has there been a recent change in medication?
- Would vitamins or supplements be helpful?
- Are there techniques or therapies to help minimize swallowing problems?
- What are the implications of tube feeding?
- How effective is tube feeding?
- Learn about healthy eating, proper nutrition and special diets
- Pick up a copy of Canada's Food Guide to Healthy Eating at your
local health department or online.
- Contact a family physician or specialist for a medical assessment
and nutritional evaluation
- Learn about the effect of illness and medications on nutritional health
- Encourage proper oral hygiene. Arrange regular dental visits
- Seek nutrition advice and information from local health departments
and community health agencies
- Consult an occupational therapist for tips and techniques on how
to increase physical strength and mobility
- Contact a speech pathologist or therapist to arrange for a swallowing test
- Arrange for meals to be delivered to the home by a delivery service, such as Meals on Wheels.
Contact your home care provider for more information.
- Find out what grocery delivery services are available
- Find out whether community groups and churches offer breakfast, lunch or dinner programs
- Find out about exercise programs for older adults
- Contact a dietitian through your local health department, community hospital, or through the
Dietitians of Canada
- Contact health associations and organizations that can provide special
advice on nutrition.
- Learn at-home coping strategies for handling eating difficulties
- Find out about helpful products that can
assist with eating and mobility problems
At-home Coping Strategies
- Serve nutritionally balanced meals using a variety of foods from
each food group.
- Calcium-rich: lean meats, poultry and fish, dairy foods and eggs
to protect the bones
- Foods with vitamin D: dairy products, including cheese and
yogurt to help the body absorb more calcium
- Fruits, vegetables, cereals and grains to add vitamin B and
fibre to the diet and protect against constipation
- Six cups of fluids daily: from water, milk, juice, soup
to help prevent dehydration
- Enhance food aromas and flavours to stimulate the appetite.
- Serve meals that look appetizing. Add interest to the environment.
Choose foods with a variety of shapes, colors and textures.
Add a garnish to the food plate.
- Serve foods that minimize chewing and swallowing problems.
- Make mealtime a social event.
- Modify the home to make it easier for a person with restricted mobility to prepare meals.
Choose nutrient-dense foods dairy foods, lean
meats, eggs that provide high levels of nutrients
and calories in small quantities of food
Serve several small meals instead of three large
Serve familiar foods. Older people like the foods
they grew up with.
Boost the flavour of foods with herbs, seasonings,
lemon juice, orange juice, low-sodium beef, chicken
and vegetable flavours, maple syrup, bacon bits
Warm or hot foods carry stronger smells, which may
stimulate the appetite
Support the back with pillows, if necessary, so
that a person can sit in an upright position for
For a person with poor eyesight, use dishes that contrast
with the tabletop
Teeth and gums
- Teeth may break more easily or may fall out
- Gums may become reddened and more sensitive; gums may recede resulting in poor-fitting dentures
- Always soak dentures at night
Since full upper and lower plates completely cover
the inside of the mouth, it may help the person to
eat by removing the dentures so he can feel the food
in his mouth (particularly when dementia is present
and seniors can start forgetting how to eat)
Medical supply stores, pharmacies and health store offer products that can assist with eating.
- One-handed utensils
- "Spork" (a combination spoon and fork)
- Swivel spoon
- Non-skid backing for plates
- Plate guards to keep food from going over the edge of a plate
- Sectioned plates
- Travel cups with partial lids
- Bendable plastic cups
- Cups wound with a non-skid rubber tread
- Liquid supplements, such as Ensure
- Carnation Instant breakfast
- Powdered protein
- Baby foods
- Junior foods
Get a grip! slide foam rubber hair curlers over the
handles of forks and spoons.