Feeding the Person Who Is Disabled
Tips for Feeding Your Disabled Loved One
- Name the food being offered.
- If the person plays with food, limit the choices being offered. (Playing with food occurs because a person is confused and unable to make choices.)
- Check the temperature of the food often.
- Be gentle with forks and spoons. (A rubber-tipped baby spoon may be helpful.)
- Feed at a steady pace, alternating food with drink.
- Remove a spoon from the person's mouth very slowly. If the person clenches the spoon, let go of it and wait for the jaw to relax.
- Give simple instructions such as "Open your mouth," "Move your tongue," "Now swallow."
- If the person spits food out, try feeding later.
- If the person refuses food, provide a drink and return in 10 minutes with the food tray.
- Between meals, provide a nourishing snack, such as stewed fruit, tapioca pudding, or finger foods.
Boosting Food Intake When the Appetite Is Poor
- Offer more food at the time of day when the person is most hungry or less tired.
- To increase the appeal of food for those with decreased taste and smell, provide strong flavors.
- Use milk or cream instead of water in soups and cooked cereal.
- Add fat by using butter, margarine, or olive oil on foods.
- Add nonfat dry-milk powder to foods like yogurt, mashed potatoes, gravy, and sauces.
- Tell the person to eat with his or her fingers if that is the only way to get the person to eat.
- Offer milk or fruit shakes.
- Offer pure'ed (finely ground) baby foods.
Eating Problems and Solutions
- Drooling: Use a straw if possible; help close the mouth with your hand. (However, sometimes the use of a straw can cause choking if liquid touches the back of the mouth too quickly.)
- Spitting out food: Ask the doctor if the cause is moodiness or disease.
- Too much swallowing or chewing: Coach the person to alternate hot and cold bites.
- Difficulty chewing: Change the diet to soft foods.
- Difficulty swallowing: Put foods through a blender or food mill; avoid thin liquids and instead serve thick liquids such as milk shakes.
- Poor scooping: Use bowls instead of plates.
- Difficulty cutting food: Use a small pizza cutter or rolling knife.
- Trouble moving food to the back of the mouth: Change the food's thickness and demonstrate how to direct the food to the center of the mouth.
- Too dry or too wet mouth: Ask the doctor or the pharmacist if this is a side effect of medications.
- Too easily distracted: Pull down the shades and remove the distractions.
NOTE: Difficulty in swallowing can cause food or liquids to be taken into the lungs, which can lead to pneumonia. Reduce the chance of food entering the lungs by keeping the person upright for at least 30 minutes after a meal.