A team member approaches a resident in a Memory Care venue during lunchtime and notices that the resident is sitting patiently at the table with a significant amount of food on her plate. The team member asks, “Did you not care for the meal today? I see you’ve left quite a lot of food on your plate.” The resident, appearing puzzled, responds, “What do you mean? I ate everything they gave me!” In this instance, the team member could easily think to himself that the resident’s confusion about the food could simply be attributed to her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s type dementia. However, being an experienced caregiver, the team member notices that the food on the white plate is comprised of a chicken breast, mashed potatoes, cauliflower, and a roll. Thinking quickly, he transfers the remaining food to a darker colored plate and again presents it to the resident. To his delight, she exclaims, “Now, that’s more like it!” as she begins to enjoy the food enthusiastically.
A recent study conducted by Boston University explains what this experienced team member had already learned: That those living with diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease, or related forms of dementia can develop challenges in seeing the world around them accurately. In other words, elders living with these brain diseases might develop what is known as a “visio-spatial disruption”, that may cause problems with visual acuity and properly seeing depths in patterns around them. Due to this challenge, food that is too monochromatic (being of one color), served on the same color plate, may create a difficult situation for someone trying to see the food on the plate to eat it. In some instances, the food may nearly “disappear” on the plate for some people. To counter this possibility, practice and research have both indicated that providing colored plates, that offer a good colored contrast to the food upon it, may help those living with dementia to eat better. Colored plates help contrasting colored food items to “stand out” from the background of the plate and increases the likelihood that the person will consume a greater amount of food.
The color of the plate has also been shown to make a difference in the amount of food someone might eat. It has been long known that red is a color that tends to stimulate appetite. The recent study conducted by Boston University also supports this idea by showing that those with dementia who were given red plates at meal time ate an average of 25% more than those who were provided with white plates.
As a company who embraces empirically-based practices, we are pleased to offer cayenne red plates to our residents in all our Auguste’s Cottage Memory Care neighborhoods. We see this as one way to provide our residents with an opportunity to have a more successful dining experience and to combat the potential for weight loss that often accompanies a dementia journey.