Caregiver & Feeding Tips for the Elderly

Written by contributing writer | 13/05/2017
Caregiver & Feeding Tips for the Elderly
A bedridden patient may make feeding more difficult because of their frustration due to a lack of mobility. (elderly lady image by pixelcarpenter from

Feeding an elderly patient can be a complicated process, particularly if that patient is unwilling or unable to make the situation easier because of dementia or other physical failings. Feeding is a very sensitive issue. Most people are embarrassed and feel it is not dignified to be fed. It is important for caregivers to be empathetic and aware of the delicate situation in which the feeding process places both patient and caregiver. By using gentle, non-invasive stratagems, a caregiver can make the process easier while soothing the emotions of the patient.

Eliminating Sources of Distraction

Caregiver & Feeding Tips for the Elderly
Try to remove any distractions before you begin feeding. (the remote-control image by terex from

If a patient is distracted or suffers from dementia, other activities in the room can make feeding nearly impossible. Turn off the television and make sure the area is well lit so that it is easy to see what the patient is eating. Try to limit external noises, including intercoms and phone calls. Present the meal one dish at a time. This helps ensure that all food is consumed and makes the process easier.

Basic Dignity

Caregiver & Feeding Tips for the Elderly
Make sure the patient is upright and glasses are comfortable. (glasses image by Joann Cooper from

Patients who feel rushed during the feeding process may refuse to eat. This is often a rebellious feeling if the patient perceives as a lack of regard for his dignity. Always make sure the patient washes his hands--even if he will not be using them--and that the patient is comfortable and as upright as possible. Be sure that dentures and glasses are comfortably situated. Keep a conversation going to help the patient remember what is going on and to help him stay focused. Use proper terms of address--"Mr. Smith" instead of "Bob" unless the patient has instructed you otherwise.

Practical Assistance

Caregiver & Feeding Tips for the Elderly
Food the patient can hold helps make him more comfortable. (finger food image by robert mobley from

If the patient is at all able to to feed himself, then allow him to do so. You can help with this by making the motions that the patient should be using to convey food to his mouth, placing your hand over his to steady the food transfer process and by serving finger foods to make eating easier. Smaller spoons can help prevent choking and make the process more manageable. Straws in drinking cups help and non-stick mats hold plates and silverware in place to limit spills.

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