The Therapeutic Benefits of Family-Style Dining for Persons Living with Dementia

The Evidence-Based Rationale for Its Inclusion in The JourneyHolistic Memory Care Approach

Dementia, a collective term for conditions characterized by the impairment of brain functions, profoundly affects the lives of millions worldwide. Among the various strategies employed to enhance the quality of life for individuals with dementia, family-style dining has emerged as a particularly effective approach. This white paper delves into the therapeutic benefits of family-style dining for persons living with dementia.

Understanding Family-Style Dining Family-style dining in dementia care involves creating a homelike, communal dining environment. This approach, a cornerstone of The Journey Holistic Memory Care Approach, contrasts with traditional institutional methods, where meals are often served on trays to individuals in isolation. By emulating a family gathering, family-style dining aims to provide a familiar, inclusive, and social atmosphere.

Therapeutic Benefits

Enhanced Social Interaction:

The key to high-quality dementia care is the promotion of social interactions. Family-style dining facilitates this by encouraging residents to engage with each other, thereby fostering a sense of community and belonging. This socialization aspect is crucial for emotional well-being (Sader, Year, I Advance Senior Care​​).

Improved Nutritional Intake:

Studies, like those cited by Watts (2013), indicate that a more relaxed and familiar dining environment can positively influence nutritional intake. The act of sharing meals and the presence of familiar foods can stimulate appetite and enhance the enjoyment of food (Journal of Dementia Care​​). Improved nutritional intake positively impacts a person’s energy, but also maintains body weight and skin health, both keys to preventing negative outcomes.

Increased Independence and Autonomy:

This dining style promotes resident choice and involvement in meal selection and preparation, fostering a sense of independence. Such practices are vital for maintaining the dignity and self-esteem of individuals with dementia.

Familiarity and Routine:

Dementia often disrupts a person’s sense of time and familiarity. A family-style setting provides a sense of normalcy and routine, which can be comforting and help reduce anxiety and confusion.

Cognitive and Sensory Stimulation:

Engaging in mealtime conversations and the sensory experiences associated with communal dining (like the sights, smells, and sounds of a shared meal) can provide cognitive and sensory stimulation, aiding in the maintenance of cognitive functions.

Emotional Well-being:

The act of sharing meals in a familial setting can evoke positive memories and emotions, enhancing emotional well-being. This aspect is especially significant as dementia progresses.

Benefits on Unmet Needs:

Implementing family-style dining can lead to a reduction in behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. The inclusive and engaging environment can help manage agitation and other challenging communications common in dementia care settings (Altus et al., 2002, ResearchGate​​).

Family-style dining offers a holistic approach to enhancing the quality of life for individuals with dementia. By fostering social interaction, improving nutritional intake, promoting independence, and enhancing emotional well-being, this dining style addresses multiple aspects of care. As with any intervention, its success depends on thoughtful implementation, continuous evaluation, and adaptation to the unique needs of each individual.


Sader, A. (Year). Implementing family-style dining. I Advance Senior Care. Retrieved from I Advance Senior Care

Watts, J. (2013). The impact of family-style dining in care homes or hospitals. Journal of Dementia Care, 21(5), 32-35. Retrieved from Social Care Online

Altus, D.E., et al. (2002). Using Family-Style Meals to Increase Participation and Communication in Persons with Dementia. Retrieved from ResearchGate