Providing older people with visual aids at mealtimes can significantly improve quality of life for people with dementia, suggests an initiative at a specialist day centre for older people in Manchester.
Picture menu cards were introduced two years ago at Wilshaw House, Ashton under Lyne, after staff at the centre became aware that older people with dementia who used the centre appeared uninterested in eating and were leaving the table without finishing their meals.
Previously, the day’s menu choices were written on a board, and staff asked people at the beginning of the day what they would like for lunch.
The problem with this method is that people with dementia can lose the ability to think for themselves, and will often say the same thing as the person next to them, according to Les Clarke, director of older people’s services at Housing 21, the not-for-profit organisation that runs the centre.
As well as restoring the centre users’ interest in food and helping to stimulate their appetite, the initiative has seen marked improvements in their physical health and quality of life.
‘A healthier, more balanced diet has resulted in less constipation and diarrhoea, both of which can exacerbate behaviour problems in people with dementia,’ said Mr Clarke. ‘They are also more awake and alert, and more willing to engage in stimulating afternoon activities which means they are more physically tired and their sleep is less disturbed at night.’
A similar visual initiative has been used by nurses in Derbyshire to help people with learning disabilities, as reported last week by Nursing Times.