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Memory Care, Caregivers and Mealtime Safety

Mealtimes can be problematic for spouses / care staff providing care for persons with dementia. While the process of being seated at the table is routine for many of us, it is a significant challenge for those with dementia.

This is due to challenges including:

•        Increased need for step-by-step instructions

•        Decreased balance

•        Difficulty with motor planning for standing up and sitting down

•        Poor coordination for scooting the chair up to the table. 

For this reason, caregivers play a bigger role in helping a person get seated the table. This might include providing verbal instructions, pulling a chair out from the table to give more room, and providing physical assistance.

The Caregiver's Dilemma When Seating Someone with Dementia

As part of the disease process, it is not uncommon for persons with Alzheimer’s to become agitated and even lash out. Caregivers can improve safety and calm by being mindful of their actions around someone with dementia, such as engaging in conversation, providing eye contact for human connection, and avoiding surprises by not approaching from behind.

However, caregivers usually have to approach the person from behind to seat them at the table. This involves pushing or pulling the chair from behind, which can disorient and distress the person with dementia. (Imagine how you'd feel if someone unexpectedly pushed your chair from behind!)

This action also requires significant physical effort from the caregiver, risking injury for both. Due to these challenges, those with dementia are often not properly seated. They might sit too far from the table, at an awkward angle, or remain seated for too long. Sometimes, they might have their meals served in a recliner or bed instead.

Why is Mealtime Seating so Important?

Ensuring that a resident with Alzheimer’s are seated properly at a table has tremendous benefits. Residents tend to eat more and increase their water intake, addressing a common challenge for individuals with Alzheimer's. Creating a positive mealtime routine also alleviates agitation, provides social connection, promotes better sleep, and enhances dignity and overall quality of life.

Make it Easier to Get into the Chair (And Then Turn Towards the Table)

To improve accessibility to the dining table, start by considering a chair that swivels. A chair like this allows a person to sit down without the table getting in the way. Once seated, the lock is released, and the individual turns themselves towards the table.

This extra clearance is especially useful when assisting a person who relies on a walker or rollator for stability or needs to use the arms of the chair to push up from a seated position. With table interference eliminated, the transfer to the table is safer and easier for both caregiver and resident.

A standard dining chair is deemed unsafe as it is does not move easily, putting the care provider at risk of incurring a personal injury.

An office chair is deemed unsafe as this style of chair rolls too easily, putting the seated person at risk of falling should the chair move unexpectantly.

Additional Benefits of ComforTek Chairs

  • The swivel-locking seat mechanism & arms reduce wandering from the table.
  • Movement features make it easier to get up and return to the table for toileting emergencies
  • Easy-to-clean surfaces

Providing care for someone with dementia is challenging. Integrating chairs with mobility features makes it easier to move a seated person up to the table, promoting relationship building between caregivers and the individual, and improving the quality of life for someone living with dementia or Alzheimer's.

Unfortunately, traditional chairs fail both seniors and caregivers

as a standard dining chair is not designed to move,
putting the caregiver at risk of incurring a personal injury
as a result of overexertion,


the office/task chair is designed to roll too easily (not stable)
putting the seated person at risk of incurring a injury due to a fall
when the chair moves unexpectedly.

A better way

Dining chairs designed to address these concerns should have arms and include mobility features enabling the chair to swivel-lock...roll...and brake for safety!

(A) Swivel-lock: Chairs that swivel-lock eliminate table interference as the seat of the chair is swiveled 90 degrees away from the table.

With the seat locked in place, the person being seated is able to rely on the arms of the chair for support and has full access to the seat of the chair as any interference with the table has been eliminated.

Once seated, they can release the swivel-lock and swivel themselves towards the table.

(B) Swivel-lock...Roll and Brake: Additionally, chairs that swivel-lock…roll…and brake can be moved further away from the table providing increased table clearance should a second caregiver be required to provide assistance or if the person relies on a walker / rollator for stability.

Exiting the table: Turning the chair 90 degrees away from the table allows the seated person to stand and walk straight away. This removed the need to lean on the table and shuffle or pivot to reach their walker

To view these mobility features in action, please watch videos:

Why is a heavier chair safer when caring for a person with Alzheimer's?

At first glance, caregivers assigned the task of moving a seated person up to the table opt for a lightweight chair, thinking this will ease their effort when moving that person forward.

However, what they fail to appreciate is (a) once the person is seated, it is the total weight of the person and the chair that needs to be moved up-to the table, and (b) a lightweight chair tends to move prematurely, increasing the risk of injury to the person being seated.

Caregivers should consider selecting a chair designed both for stability and mobility.

A sturdy chair with arms offers support as the person slowly lowers him/herself into the chair. A heavier chair provides increased stability and thus is less likely to move prematurely. Chairs fitted with lockable inline wheels provide needed mobility, enabling the caregiver to roll the seated person up-to the table with ease and grace.

Chairs that Swivel...Roll...and Brake for safety:

  • provide those with Alzheimer's a greater degree of dignity and self-worth
  • eliminate the need for care partners to push-pull-shove-twist on a chair
  • reduce mealtime stress and anxiety for both the seated person and the care partner
  • create a more enjoyable mealtime routine for all

Story from the Field

A care home called to reorder chairs for their dining room. In 2017 they placed a set of chairs which included “mobility features” into their dining room. 

They went on to share with us, “Prior to receiving these chairs in 2017, they documented 5-8 incidents/month where a seated resident would “strike” or “lash out” at the caregiver who was assisting them up-to the table. Interestingly, since the Titan Series “mobility chairs” arrived (2017) they have not had another documented case of this occurring.”

Their takeaway, dining chairs fitted with “mobility features”, enable care staff to focus on developing a relationship with residents, as opposed to approaching them from behind only to surprise / aggravate them further by pushing-pulling-shoving-twisting on the back of their chair each time meal assistance was provided.

Meet Nancy...

My son Edward made arrangements for the chair to be sent to us in San Marcos CA for my husband who now has Alzheimer's. I want to tell you how wonderful we think the chair is. It meets all of the needs of a person who cannot move about without assistance.

The arms on the chair are sturdy enough for my husband to push himself up and the wheels and lever to turn the seat make it so much easier for caregivers and I to move him about.

Swivel & Roll - San Marcos, CA

Meet Doloris...

I just want to say thank you and your team for building such an amazing chair that has literally been a life saver for my mother who suffers from Alzheimers and dementia. The upholstery has held up for a year of hard use, it looks brand new. We added a backrest at her chiropractor's request because she literally sits on a chair all day.

I have no doubt that I will be enjoying the benefits of this arm chair 25 years from now!

Swivel - Allentown, PA