Eating skills and nutritional status of those with dementia can improve with training, according to a recent study in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.
The study involved 82 older adults from dementia special care units at three long-term care facilities in Taiwan. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: spaced retrieval training, Montessori methods or routine activity in a control group. The spaced retrieval group (SR) received eight weeks of training to break down the step-by-step eating procedure into basic elements for memory. For example, the ability to realize it is meal time was reinforced using music as a trigger. The Montessori-based activity involved caregivers using preferred food sensations to guide eating tasks such as scooping, pouring and differentiating food. The control group participated in the daily eating routine prescribed by their institution.
Both the SR and the Montessori methods led to significantly decreased eating difficulty, and nutritional status was significantly higher in the SR group than in the control group. However, no differences between the groups were found in body weight or body mass index. The authors suggest a longitudinal study be conducted to determine the long-term effects of SR and Montessori-based activities.
See “Using Spaced Retrieval and Montessori-Based Activities in Improving Eating Ability for Residents with Dementia,” International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry (October 2010; 10: 953-959), available atonlinelibrary.wiley.com.