Preparing and Feeding your Loved Ones
Feeding your loved one good food is important for good health. Your goal in preparing food is to promote your loved one’s health. When you are preparing food, there are a few guidelines that need to be followed. Use cooking methods that will preserve color and taste, as well as vitamins and minerals. Do not add unnecessary ingredients such as large amounts of salt or fats.
Before serving the food, help your loved one to use the bathroom and wash his or her hands, this will help your loved one to have a nice mealtime. Serve foods at the desired temperature, make meals more appealing, pick foods with high nutrients and calories for better taste if the diet allows. Try to offer a variety of meals; no one wants to eat the same thing every day. Always keep your loved one company when they’re eating—it will help them feel more comfortable. Allow them as much time as needed to eat.
Feeding your Loved One
- Utensils: knife, fork, and spoon
- Dishes, bowls, cup, glass
- Napkins (2)
- Towel or bib
- Any other special utensils
- Explain what you are going to do.
- Wash your hands.
- Obtain the materials listed above.
- Prepare your loved one for the meal:
- Offer to assist with going to the bathroom.
- Offer to assist your loved one with washing his or her hands.
- Position your loved one to sit up in the bed or in a chair.
- Place table or bed tray over your loved one’s lap so he or she can see and reach the food.
- Sit near them.
- Cut food, butter bread, pour and prepare liquids as needed.
- Ask them what he or she would like to eat first.
- Encourage them to do as much self-feeding as possible.
- Feed your loved one, one bite at a time. Use a spoon and fill only half-full and according to the ability to chew and swallow.
- Alternate solids and liquids. Use a straw for drinking.
- Talk pleasantly with your loved one and encourage them to eat. Offer praise.
- When your loved one is finished, remove their napkin or bib and wipe their mouths.
- Wash your loved ones’ hands and face.
- Offer oral hygiene.
- Make sure your loved one is safe and comfortable.
- Wash your hands.
- Wash all the dishes used for the meal.
- Clean and straighten the kitchen.
Difficulty Chewing and Swallowing
Sometimes your loved one may have trouble eating because of personal or medical problems. Such as; poor appetite, missing teeth, sore mouth, or trouble swallowing can make chewing very difficult. Also, chewing takes a lot of energy. When your loved ones’ illnesses result in low energy levels, they may find chewing to be exhausting. The act of swallowing is a complex process that requires coordination of the nerves and muscles of the throat. Saliva helps lubricate food so that swallowing takes place without effort. When your loved one does not produce enough saliva, swallowing becomes difficult. A speech therapist can teach your patient techniques to help improve swallowing.
- Prepare soft foods such as eggs, fish, and cheese for sources of high protein.
- Cut food into small pieces.
- Be patient with your loved one; do not rush.
- Have your loved one sit upright, slightly forward, with chin tilted down.
- Thicken liquids to ease the swallowing process. Add thickening agents to hot liquids and gelatin to cold liquids.
When Appetite is Poor
- Serve small meals at least 5 times a day.
- Make meals attractive and colorful.
- Allow plenty of time to eat.
- Select foods high in nutrient value.
- Do not force foods.
- Avoid foods high in fat, which can cause a feeling of fullness.
- Give high-calorie liquids in place of water or sodas.
When your Loved One is Blind
If your loved one is blind, ask your loved one how they would like to eat—do they want to eat a certain food first or a certain food last? Always remember, you are here to help in their home; you should ask how they would prefer things being done. Mealtime for your blind loved one can be stressful, but you can make it a great experience if you follow a couple of key elements:
- Explain to your loved one where the foods are on the plate, such as the potatoes are at two o’clock, and the baked fish is at eight o’clock.
- Keep utensils, napkin, and in the same place at every mealtime; that way your loved one will become familiar with where everything is.
- Resist the urge to help unless asked to by your loved one; you want your loved one to feel as if they still have the ability to do things on their own.
Special Diets to Meet Special Needs
Treatment of your loved ones’ illness may include changes in the diet. This is called nutritional therapy. In combination with other types of treatment—such as medications, physical therapy, and speech therapy—nutritional therapy contributes to your loved ones’ recovery process. The type of diet ordered by the doctor depends on the nutritional needs of your loved one. Perhaps there are problems with the way the food is digested or absorbed. Or the body requires increased amounts of certain nutrients so that the healing of tissues can take place. Nutritional therapy is an important part of your loved one’s overall plan of care.
Modifying the Diet
The Food Pyramid forms the foundation for modifying the diet to meet your loved ones need. In fact, the diet ordered by the doctor should be as similar as possible to their regular diet. Changes may need to be made in the frequency of meals, the number of certain types of foods, and/or the texture or digestibility of the foods consumed. When teaching your loved one and family about the modifications needed, consider food preferences, existing diet, budget, and kitchen facilities available.
Your Role in Nutritional Therapy
Your responsibility is to prepare meals according to the diet plan. Because you will be with your loved one more than other family members, you can observe and record information about how the diet is being tolerated. Accurate record-keeping of the food eaten and fluids consumed is very important. Remember, the food groups of the pyramid form the foundation. The kinds of foods selected or the method of food preparation will vary according to the specific diet.
- Regular—all nutrients
- Soft—only foods that are easy to chew, swallow, and digest
- Bland—foods that are easily digested and avoid irritation to the digestive system
- High Calorie—increase calorie intake
- Low Calorie—decrease calorie intake
- Sodium Restricted—sodium intake limited
- Diabetic—the amount of carbohydrates needs to be regulated
- Low Residue—limit the residue in the colon after digestion
- High Residue—increase the residue in the colon to cause peristalsis
- Low Fat—the fat amount needs to be limited in the diet
- Low Cholesterol—decrease the amount of cholesterol in the blood