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Sample section from Alzheimer’s Society guide to catering for people with dementia

You can read a sample section from the publication, Alzheimer’s Society guide to catering for people with dementia below. This excerpt is taken from the section on finger foods.

Finger food

At mealtimes people with dementia may struggle to eat using any type of cutlery as their dementia progresses. Difficulties with co-ordination may develop and consequently the person may find picking up food and eating with their fingers much easier to do. Foods that are eaten with the hands are called finger foods. In essence finger foods are like party or buffet foods – easy to pick up and eat. For many people with dementia this is far preferable to having someone else ‘feed’ them. It is a more dignified way of eating and offers the person greater control over their mealtime as they can choose what they eat from a plate. This control is also a boost to self-esteem and confidence at mealtimes which can help to improve well-being and food intake. Finger foods can also be eaten whilst standing or on the move, which is ideal for those people who have difficulty remaining seated for a meal

Finger foods – the benefits

  • They enable people to feed themselves, thus maintaining independence at mealtimes.
  • They help to preserve eating skills.
  • They can renew interest in food and stimulate appetite.
  • They can improve food intake and leave less waste.
  • They can boost confidence and self esteem at mealtimes.
  • They allow greater choice at mealtimes and freedom to eat as desired.
  • They are served at room temperature so do not need to be kept warm.
  • They are ideal for people who need time to eat as they do not go cold.
  • They are easy to eat.

Providing a finger food menu can be hugely beneficial for people with dementia. However, such a menu needs to be creative and varied, as people can quickly tire of a repetition of small sandwiches and sausage rolls. Consideration of food texture is also important, if a person prefers soft foods, then raw vegetables are not going to be popular, however cheese spread on finger slices of bread may be perfect.Finger foods are easy to prepare in advance as they are served at room temperature; there is no rush to get people to eat, as they do not go cold if a person eats slowly. People with dementia may have fluctuating capabilities from one mealtime to the next and may respond better to finger foods at certain mealtimes than using a knife and fork.It is worth bearing in mind that some people may take a while to adjust to eating with their hands and may initially reject the meal or seem uncertain what to do. Care staff need to take the time to describe the food on the plate, show the person what to do so that they can copy the actions and allow the person time to look at the food and explore it.

Finger food options

When devising finger food menus, consult menu planning guidelines to ensure meals are balanced and varied. All food groups need to be represented in appropriate quantities to ensure good variety and nutritional balance. Here, options for finger foods have been listed under the relevant food groups.

Bread, cereals and potatoes
Try a variety of breads for interest including wholemeal and white. Keep sandwiches small so they are easier to manage.

  • buttered toast or bread fingers
  • small bread rolls with butter
  • small sandwiches
  • buttered crumpets or muffins
  • bite size crackers with butter or soft cheese
  • scones, malt loaf, fruit loaf, teacakes of hot cross buns
  • waffles
  • slices or mini naan bread pieces
  • slices or finger pitta bread pieces
  • potato wedges and chunky chips (try sweet potatoes)
  • small roast potatoes
  • small boiled potatoes or cut into half

Meat, fish, eggs and cheese
Meat that is dry may be difficult to eat so keep it moist. Slice meat and cut into pieces or cubes. Examples include:

  • tender meat eg beef, pork or lamb
  • chicken or turkey breast (moist)
  • small meatballs, sausages and chipolatas
  • pieces of meatloaf
  • gammon pieces with pineapple cubes
  • pieces of fish fillet, (boned)
  • small fishcakes and fishfingers
  • vegetable burgers or sausages cut into pieces
  • hard boiled egg quartered
  • chicken nuggets or scampi pieces
  • mini quiche
  • meat /fish pieces kebab style
  • cheese cubed or sliced

Vegetables

  • Vegetables can be steamed, boiled or served raw, depending upon what the person prefers and can manage
  • carrot, swede or parsnip cut into sticks or cubes
  • broccoli spears
  • cauliflower florets
  • brussel sprouts
  • whole green beans or mangetout
  • celery sticks (fill with cream cheese) or pieces
  • cherry tomatoes
  • salad tomatoes cut into wedges
  • sliced peppers
  • baby mushrooms

Fruit
Fruit can be peeled if preferred.

  • banana mini whole, chunks or slices
  • melon chunks
  • pineapple chunks
  • orange segments
  • slices of kiwi fruit
  • apple or pear chunks or slices
  • strawberries, raspberries and blueberries
  • apricots (stone removed) and halved
  • nectarines or peaches (stone removed) cut into halves
  • seedless grapes
  • ready-to-eat dried apricots, pears, apple rings, stoned prunes or figs

Miscellaneous sweet and savoury

  • slices of cake
  • mini sweet muffins or doughnut rings
  • mini cookies
  • biscuits
  • pieces of flapjack
  • sponge pudding cut into chunks, offer custard to dip into
  • cereal and fruit and nut bars
  • finger slices of toast and bread with peanut butter, jam, lemon curd, honey or chocolate spread
  • slices of pork pie
  • mini sausage rolls
  • pizza, mini pieces or sliced
  • finger slices of grilled cheese on toast
  • finger slices of toast or bread with cheese, pate, tuna mayonnaise or fish paste
  • bhajis and mini samosas

This is an excerpt from the publication, Alzheimer’s Society guide to catering for people with dementia. If you would like to purchase a copy, please visit their online shop.

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