Dementia and the Dining Experience: Empowering and Training Your Staff

Published on : 4/20/22
  • Living long enough to witness civilization evolve from simple to sophisticated, humanity progress from exclusive to inclusive, social wrongs made right, and trends emerge and recede is a substantial benefit of aging. But for some residents in senior living communities, this experience is hindered by cognitive decline.

    More than the occasional forgetfulness, temporary confusion, and other manifestations of normal brain aging, cognitive decline is the abnormal deterioration of cognitive abilities. Symptoms include getting lost in familiar places, repeating the same story over and over, delusions, disorientation, and agitation. Cognitive decline can range from mild to severe cognitive impairment, which is called dementia. Dementia affects areas of the brain that control an individual’s ability to engage in his or her normal routines. 

    Among assisted living communities, 60% of residents experience some form of dementia, and the incidence of dementia is higher among residents who are over age 85. Residents who have dementia may have trouble engaging in everyday activities such as taking medications, bathing, dressing, and eating. Dining and care experiences must therefore be reengineered to address the special needs of these residents. What emerges as an ideal solution to caring for residents with dementia is a holistic, person-centered approach: integrated dining and therapeutic hospitality.

    Why Integrated Dining and Therapeutic Hospitality?

    Integrated dining and therapeutic hospitality involve creating a cohesive care team of dining staff and clinical staff who collaborate to employ best practices for residents with dementia. Dining is the epicenter of socialization and provides opportunities to observe residents’ behavior and needs. In fact, dining staff may even notice behavioral changes before other care staff does.  

    For example, residents experiencing dementia may avoid or neglect mealtimes, which affects nutrition intake and can subsequently have an adverse effect on clinical outcomes. Food choices thus become a critical factor in mitigating and managing the progression of dementia as well as other health factors. Dining staff are therefore uniquely positioned to bridge caregiving by recognizing the signs of dementia and supporting residents accordingly.

    Addressing the Needs of Residents with Dementia

    Sodexo Seniors’ B Integrated Dining & Therapeutic Hospitality program facilitates elevated care for residents with dementia. Our program delivers a thoughtfully engineered experience in a therapeutic dining space, which helps alleviate distressing behaviors related to dementia. The B program offers team members scientifically backed, evidence-based education and training to recognize signs of dementia and to work more closely with clinical care teams. In addition, our therapeutic dining service does the following:

    • Provides comfort and connection
    • Is based on a unique, deep understanding of the needs of seniors and their motivations
    • Delivers nutritious foods that promote brain health
    • Provides adaptable food formats modified for cognitive needs
    • Engages staff to apply best practices for dementia care


    Sodexo Seniors empowers organizations to help residents with dementia thrive. A collaboration with us will help ensure that residents can maintain their dignity while dining and clinical staff provide a holistic experience for residents as they progress through the stages of dementia.

    Contact us to learn more about our B Integrated Dining and Therapeutic Hospitality program.

    Read about Sodexo’s research and practices to impact the older adults and care communities we serve, to pave the path to a better tomorrow.