Try large-handled utensils

To prevent slipping, apply suction cups to the bottom of plates or use placemats that have traction on both sides. You could also make your own placemats from a roll of the rubbery mesh typically used to line shelves. Sometimes bowls are easier to use than are plates. Likewise, spoons might be easier to handle than forks. The larger the spoon's handle, the better. Try bendable straws or lidded cups for liquids.

Offer foods one at a time

If your loved one is overwhelmed by an entire plateful of food, place just one type of food at a time on the plate. You could also offer several small meals throughout the day, rather than three larger ones. Cut food into bite-sized portions. Finger foods are even easier — but avoid foods that can be tough to chew and swallow, such as nuts, popcorn and raw carrots.

Take your time

Don't rush your loved one to eat quickly. Remind your loved one to chew and swallow carefully, and allow him or her as much time as necessary. It might take up to an hour to finish a meal. Encourage your loved one to follow your actions, such as holding a fork or drinking from a cup — or gently place your hand over your loved one's hand to hold a utensil and bring food to his or her mouth.

Sneak in extra nutrition

If you're having a hard time getting your loved one to eat enough, prepare your loved one's favorite foods. Serve a filling breakfast or several light breakfasts in a row. You might also offer high-calorie snacks — such as protein milkshakes. Consult the doctor if your loved one loses weight suddenly.

Ensuring good nutrition in Alzheimer's can be a challenge, but it's worthwhile. Good nutrition can help your loved one better cope — both physically and emotionally — with the challenges of Alzheimer's.

Feb. 04, 2012 See more In-depth