Date of Award

Spring 5-14-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Dr. Anita Nucci

Second Advisor

Jessica White


Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to affect memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to accurately perform everyday activities. Seniors’ eating habits are impacted depending on which stage of dementia they are experiencing. Common signs and symptoms in early-stage dementia include forgetfulness, difficulty communicating thoughts, anxiety and depression, loss of concentration, being unable to recognize spoiled food, changes in food preferences, and an inability to hold attention through a meal. In middle-stage dementia, solutions include: constant redirection to meals and snacks, introducing tablemates as they may not remember their names from last meal, planning a menu to include foods and liquids suitable to this stage of dementia (e.g., finger foods, mechanically altered items, and foods to eat "on the go"), maintaining a calm and unhurried environment, serving meals with only a fork or spoon, and continuing to serve meal one course at a time. A finger food diet is regular diet consistency which can be easily eaten with the fingers and not requiring silverware. A Finger Food Diet Menu was developed using similar menu options as a Regular/No Added Salt diet. The existing menu foods were used for two reasons, 1) so that residents did not feel segregated, and 2) to make the best use of foods currently being purchased/utilized. The head chef and registered dietitian worked together on the Finger Food Diet Menu. The limitation to the Finger Food Diet Menu is that it is not appropriate for residents on a mechanical soft or pureed diet.