There are different forms of disabilities and each type has its peculiarities and challenges.
Even though some disabilities can allow patients to feed themselves, other types will require the patient to be fed by an assistant or caregiver.
Some of the various types of disabilities that require assisted feeding include arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC) or cerebral palsy, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or a person suffering from dementia who cannot manage to eat alone anymore.
The process of feeding a disabled person requires a lot of care and patience, irrespective of the type of disability the person is suffering from.
Therefore, as a caregiver or assistant, you must be armed with the right information to enable you to successfully feed any person suffering from a disability.
Table of Contents
- Important Things to Do before Feeding a Disabled Person
- Ultimate Guide: How to Feed a Disabled Person Appropriately
- How to Feed a Disabled Person (Video)
Important Things to Do before Feeding a Disabled Person
Hygiene and personal care
Being a caregiver requires you to maintain proper hygiene before starting the feeding process.
Ensure that your hands are clean at all times. Your clothes and overall appearance should also be neat and well-kept.
Doing this will prevent the spread of germs and allow the patient to feel more comfortable and relaxed when you start feeding them.
Position the patient properly
If the kind of disability the patient is suffering from prevents them from being able to sit on their own, kindly help them to maintain a good sitting position.
This can be done when you help them sit in an upright position while securing their upper body firmly at a 90-degree angle. Make sure that their feet are well-placed on the floor and their head is positioned appropriately, with the chin a bit down.
When you position a disabled person well before feeding, it helps to prevent them from aspirating the food into the lungs, thereby reducing choking.
You can also use a pillow(s) as a support to improve the comfortability of the patient.
Know the food texture
Disabled people eat different types of meals based on the nature of their disabilities.
Some find it difficult to chew and are, therefore, placed on a strict fluid diet, while some can take food and fluid diet but with a certain type of texture as recommended by the doctor or dietician.
Hence, you must take cognizance of this as a caregiver by feeding the patient with the right food and fluid texture to aid digestion.
The process of feeding a disabled person takes a lot of time and patience. You must ensure that you take your time by letting them eat the food at their own pace.
The eating process might be slow, but ensuring that they eat the food is what matters. This will help to give them all the nutrients they need to enable them to respond effectively to treatment and heal faster.
Let the patient know the meal
This is very crucial if the patient is visually impaired or blind. Tell them about the kind of meal they’ll be having to enable them to get familiar with it.
If the meal is something they aren’t familiar with, explain the meal type to them and the preparation process. Tell them about the meal’s nutritional benefits and how it’s the best for their health and wellness.
This will make the patient more comfortable having the meal, especially if it’s their first time.
Ask the patient about their needs
When it comes to feeding, some patients have preferences for certain ingredients like salt and pepper.
So, ask them their preferences and allow them to choose what they wish to have with their meal, as long as it’s not detrimental to their health.
In addition, let them know if you’ll be using a fork or spoon to feed them before raising it to their mouth. This is essential, especially when you’re dealing with a patient who’s visually impaired. Asking them about their most preferred eating device is very crucial during the feeding process.
Before you begin to feed the patient, try as much as possible to avoid distraction.
Don’t talk to people during the feeding process. You must make sure that all your attention is on the patient to prevent them from choking or spilling the food.
Ultimate Guide: How to Feed a Disabled Person Appropriately
- Clean tray or table/over bed table
- Chair (you’ll be using it to sit opposite or beside the patient)
- Wash your hands thoroughly by decontaminating them from germs
- Place all the food on the table or tray
- Use the serviette to protect the patient’s cloth
- Ask them about the meal they’ll like to have first
- Put on your apron and commence the feeding process
Feeding the disabled with a solid meal
- Begin by giving them small bits of the food to see how much the patient can chew and swallow
- If they find it difficult to swallow the food, give them little water to aid the swallowing and prevent them from choking
- Carefully watch them chew and swallow the food by looking at their throat. If you’re convinced that they’ve swallowed the food completely, then proceed to ask them if they are ready for more food
- Don’t rush them. Let them eat at their own pace
- Continue feeding them till they are satisfied or tell you they’ve had enough
- If you happen to be feeding a patient suffering from stroke, such a patient might likely experience numbness on one side of their body. If their mouth is part of the numbness, ensure that you put the food in the part of the mouth that’s not numb while making sure that they chew and swallow the food without it getting to the numb part of the mouth
Feeding the disabled with liquid meal
A patient might, sometimes, be experiencing difficulty with chewing or oral dysphagia. In this case, doctors or dieticians often recommend liquid meals and purée to the patient.
Below are the processes involved when feeding liquid meals to the disabled:
- Just like the solid meal, begin by using a spoon to give them the meal in bits to see how well they can swallow
- If the patient can take the meal with a straw, gently place the straw in their mouth and let them sip at their own pace
- Continue feeding them until they signal to you that they are satisfied