Dining Safely with Dementia-Related Swallowing Challenges

Dementia presents challenges in all aspects of life, one of them being the action of swallowing. This can affect someone’s ability to eat and drink, and can cause possible choking hazards. There are certain tips and education about dementia-related eating challenges that can help overcome these issues. When you have the right plan in place, your loved one can continue to eat safely.

“While dementia can make mealtimes difficult, implementing a few changes can improve your loved one’s safety and make mealtimes an enjoyable experience,” says Teleia Farrell, Community Relations Director of YourLife™ of West Melbourne. 

“We primarily focus on providing our residents with specialized memory care. We understand how swallowing can be a challenge, but we have professional staff ready to help your loved one get the nutrition they need.” 

What Are the 5 A’s of Alzheimer’s and How Do They Relate to Eating Challenges?

Five major ways that Alzheimer’s affects people can be broken down into the 5 A’s. They are: 

  • Amnesia: This is loss of memory. As the disease progresses, communication, information retention, and accessing long-term memory become more difficult. Not remembering to eat regularly may occur. 
  • Agnosia. Alzheimer’s affects one’s ability to recognize things like someone’s face, environment, and voices. Recognizing food or differentiating fake food from real can become a challenge. 
  • Aphasia: People may lose the ability to understand speech and have issues with expressing their thoughts. They may not communicate that they do not like the food given to them, or that there’s something wrong with it. 
  • Anomia. This falls under aphasia, but is more specific. Those with Alzheimer’s may have trouble with finding the word they wish to communicate. 
  • Apraxia. This affects the muscles, and is closely related to eating challenges because it affects motor skills. The person may have issues with remembering how to do certain tasks, including swallowing. 

While apraxia deals with the action of swallowing, all of these symptoms can make eating and drinking a challenge to remember and do on a regular basis. If your loved one is uninterested in their food at mealtimes or doesn’t have an appetite, they could become malnourished or dehydrated. If you’re able to get them to the table, you may have concerns about choking. 

It’s vital for seniors to get nutritious meals and have ways to eat safely. Having a calm, inviting environment and serving foods that are bite-sized and easy to chew, or having pureed food are just a few ways to help your loved one safely enjoy their meal. 

When putting together a plan for your loved one, you’ll need to understand where they’re at in terms of what will work best for them. A table with small finger foods with others eating as well may encourage your loved one to participate in the meal. Others may not thrive in that kind of setting, or may require their food in a puree form. It’s all about finding the unique balance that works best for your loved one. 

Learn About the Memory Care at YourLife™ of West Melbourne 

YourLife™ of West Melbourne puts our residents first. Trained staff, assistance with daily activities, nutritious meals are only a few examples of how this community provides excellent care for an engaging life. 


We work diligently to make your loved one feel at home. When they’re receiving the care and nutrition they need in a welcoming and compassionate environment, you can have peace of mind. That’s where we can help. Contact us today to schedule a personal consultation with a YourLife™ personal care specialist.