Weakness, paralysis, casts, and other physical limitations may make self-feeding impossible. The family caregiver needs to handle this situation professionally. Sometimes, it is hard for care recipients to accept the idea of not being able to feed themselves. They may feel resentful and depressed. Remember to be friendly and to encourage them to do as much as possible for themselves. Before serving a meal, remember the following:
- Offer the care recipient the opportunity to toilet. If the client has been incontinent, change the person before serving food.
- Offer the care recipient oral hygiene.
- Help the care recipient to wash hands and face.
- Make sure the care recipient is comfortable and positioned properly (upright at 45-90 degrees with the head stabilized).
- If the care recipient has dentures, make sure they are in.
- Protect the care recipient’s clothing, if necessary. A towel or special protector can be used. Do NOT refer to it as a ‘bib.’ Instead, call it an apron, clothing protector, or cover-up.
- Be familiar with client’s diet and any restrictions (e.g. calories, sweets, salt).
During a meal, follow these guidelines:
- Sit down beside the care recipient, at the same level.
- Carry on a pleasant conversation with the care recipient.
- Don’t rush the care recipient. Feed slowly and carefully.
- Pick up eating utensils by the handles.
- Avoid touching the food if you can.
- A spoon may be safer to use than a fork.
- Explain to the client what you are going to do, and what foods are on the tray, and ask what he or she would like to eat first.
- Make sure the person’s mouth is empty before offering the next bite of food or sip of beverage.
- Make sure the food is not too hot.
- Allow time for the client to chew and swallow, and watch for signs of gagging and chocking.
- Offer beverages throughout the meal; use a straw for liquids if necessary. Be careful of temperature of liquids.
- Stop feeding when the client does not want more or seems tired.
- For feeding a blind client, describe the food you are offering and use the numbers on clock to identify the location of the food on the plate.
After the meal, follow these guidelines:
- Assist the care recipient to wash hands and face.
- Assist the care recipient with oral hygiene, if desired.
- Assist the care recipient to a comfortable position.
- Refrigerate leftovers and clean up eating area.
- You may wash dishes at this time.
- If the care recipient routinely doesn’t eat well, you may want to report it to the care recipient’s physician.