How to Handle Messy Eaters
Someone may be messy eating because of lack of control, lack of attentiveness, or decreased interested in self-care and hygiene.
Here are some ways you can help one with messy eating habits:
Lower expectations and look the other way as much as you can.
Use a vinyl tablecloth, which is easily wiped clean, or paper placemats that can be discarded.
Place a napkin in the person’s lap before serving food.
Cut up foods before serving.
Serve fewer “risky” foods, such as sauces and condiments (mustard, ketchup, mayo). Preseason food before bringing it to the table.
If manipulating utensils is difficult, switch to a “spork,” a combination spoon-fork often sold in camping stores.
Serve finger foods that eliminate the need to use a utensil, such as fried chicken, chicken strips, pizza cut into bite-sized pieces, fish sticks, sandwiches.
At first, offer finger-food meals to everyone at the table, so the person is less apt to feel infantile.
Serve soup in a mug, not a bowl, and let it cool somewhat first.
Use unbreakable dishes or heavy ironstone that’s less likely to slide around.
Choose plastic cups over glass ones.
Serve only one or two foods at a time.
Serve liquids in a cup with a spout (available in some hospital-supply stores), or pour only a small amount at a time into a small cup.
If you must point out a mistake (mustard smeared on the cheek), sound casual and surprised (“Oh, that mustard is so messy, let me help you get it off your cheek”) rather than shaming or blaming.
Wash stained clothes at night so they’re not worn repeatedly (a common behavior among people with Alzheimer’s).