Dementia Patient Making a Mess While Eating

People living with Dementia have a tendency to make a mess while eating. This can be annoying for caregivers as they have to clean up after every meal, but messy eating can also be dangerous. Safety is something you might not have thought about. An untidy floor can lead to accidents resulting due to falls or slips. Moreover, the food lying on the floor can also attract all sorts of insects that could harm the person with Dementia. 

Why do dementia patients make a mess while eating?

Dementia can bring about cognitive changes in the person suffering from it. These changes are generally not visible in the early or middle stages of the condition, but a family member can notice them very easily in the later stages. 

A report by MayoClinic concludes that a person with Dementia can struggle with coordination and motor functions. This means poor hand-eye coordination can make a basic activity such as eating a challenge. This is why folks with Dementia make a mess while eating. 

At what stage of Dementia a person begins making a mess while eating

Before we dive deeper into this subject I would like to inform you that Dementia is an umbrella term to describe several neurodegenerative diseases. For instance, the stages a person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will go through might differ for someone with Vascular dementia or Parkinson’s disease. According to a report by WebMD, cognition declines gradually through a total of 7 stages. 

  1. No decline 
  2. Very mild decline
  3. Mild decline
  4. Moderate decline
  5. Moderately severe decline
  6. Severe decline
  7. Very severe decline

I have listed the stages so you’ll know exactly what stage your loved one is at. Needless to mention, if you are having trouble deciding where your loved one belongs on the scale, you must consult a geriatrician. If you and your loved one have recently become aware of the cognitive decline, you might not have consulted a doctor yet. I suggest you do it soon.  

So, at what stage a person living with Dementia begins to exhibit messy eating behaviors? 

A person begins to struggle with eating at the sixth stage (severe decline) of Dementia. Most caregivers will notice signs in the fifth stage itself, but the signs become visible in the later stage. In the sixth stage of Dementia, most persons will need external help to carry out activities of daily living, which includes eating. Even if you feed them, they struggle to chew and contain food within their mouth. Naturally, food particles fall out of their mouths— leaving stains on the table, floor, and clothes. They can make quite a mess!

What does the research say about Dementia-induced poor hand-eye coordination?

People who have more severe dementia tend to show greater impairment of fine motor skills than people with milder dementia, according to a study. A simple exam that assesses fine motor skills can serve as a barometer of dementia in the community. 

Another study concludes that Alzheimer’s disease can cause damage to the parietal lobe, a part of the brain that is important to the coordination of eye and hand movements. 

People with Alzheimer’s disease have difficulty performing goal-directed hand movements and are unable to suppress reflexive eye and hand movements. They might feel compelled to shake their hands without any reason. Moreover, people affected by Alzheimer’s disease eat more slowly than do other healthy folks.

Dementia patient making a mess while eating? This is how you can eliminate messy eating behaviors

Dementia patients often feel embarrassed when they cannot control their eating behaviors. When mealtime is chaotic, the patient and caregiver can feel frustrated and the patient may have less motivation to eat.

Try to understand the problem first:

Spilling food or liquid on clothing or bedding can be very upsetting for dementia patients, even if they are unaware of the mess they are making. The way they see themselves may be affected by this problem. They may think of themselves as slow, disorganized, incompetent, or messy. Even if the patient is aware that “spilling food while eating” is not their fault, they still may feel bad about what’s happening. Hence, kindly do not shout at them. Be compassionate, and they will be more cooperative.

It’s important to understand how people with dementia view their world. Because of problems with thinking and memory, they have trouble understanding the situation. They may not realize that spilling a drink or food from their plate is unintentional and beyond their control.

Here’s what you can do:

When you’re dining with someone who has dementia, take steps to keep him from spilling food or liquid. Aim to make meals as calm and orderly as possible for everyone involved. 

You can avoid a mess by creating the right circumstances. Present meals in a way that gives the person with dementia an opportunity to eat without spilling food on the table, floor, or clothes. Use colored non-skid plates, and place them on a table with a placemat. Use plastic knives and forks, rather than metal ones. 

There are many different ways to go about this. Plates that are a bit slippy, or even the average plastic ones, aren’t the best. There are lots of options for things like non-skid plates you can order online. Also, serve mid-meal sipping water in small bottles rather than cups so they don’t spill them.

Furthermore, bake or steam your food just until it’s firm, then chill it enough that you can cut it. For example, slice a raw chicken breast into bite-size chunks, shred the leaves of butternut squash or bake large potatoes then cut them into serving sizes.


For dementia patients and their caregivers, eating independently is a task worth working on. Messy eating in dementia patients can be addressed with some simple changes to the daily meal routine. In addition to slowing down the meal pace, you can make your meals more appealing with better presentation and by presenting each item separately and neatly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *