Does it really matter what color plate or coffee mug is used for someone with AD? The answer is YES!
According to a study completed at Boston University in 2004, “40% of individuals with severe Alzheimer’s lose an unhealthy amount of weight.” This can be attributed to a variety of reasons from poor eyesight to depression to decrease interest in food to dentures that no longer fit properly. Or someone like my Mom who no longer knew what food was, what you were supposed to do with it and lost her ability to eat on her own. She had vascular dementia and died in 1978 after having had three strokes.
Dr. Cronin-Golomb’s “… research team tested advanced Alzheimer’s patients’ level of food intake with standard white plates and with bright-red ones. What they found was astonishing—patients eating from red plates consumed 25 percent more food than those eating from white plates.”
So what does this mean for you as a caregiver if you are caring for a loved one at home, or for residential communities and adult day programs that serve those with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia? When serving any type of food, ideally you should be using red tableware and glasses. However if this is not possible, provide darker, solid colored plates, mugs, etc. that will allow food to be distinguished from the color of the plate. Mashed potatoes, fish, oatmeal, vanilla ice cream, eggs and any number of other foods don’t show up well on white plates. These items need to stand out so that people can see them. Additionally, make sure that dinnerware is not cluttered with flowers and designs as this confuses patients and will be more difficult for them to concentrate on eating and not be distracted.
I will add one more note that I have found in my experience over the years. If your loved one is not eating or only eating small amounts of food, recall what [her] favorite foods have been and serve those. Obviously you want your loved one to eat healthy, but if she is not eating it’s more important to provide food that she will eat, even if you are offering the same food several days a week. Ice cram for breakfast and oatmeal for dinner are really OK. Getting your loved one to take nourishment and drink plenty of fluids are important for her on-going health.
Source: Alzheimer’s and Dementia Weekly, 9.12.18:
Author: Jeremy Schwab
Researcher & Biopsychologist Alice Cronin-Golomb, PhD;