Proper Feeding Techniques

Long-term care residents should be encouraged to maintain their independence and feed themselves whenever possible. However, there are many reasons why a patient may require feeding assistance.  Physical problems (for example, being unable to hold a fork, tremors that prevent getting spoon to mouth, etc) or cognitive problems (such as just forgetting how to eat) can result in a need for feeding assistance. Even those who can feed themselves may require help with tray set-up.  Some patients will become “feeders” when they are unable to feed themselves.  Proper identification of feeding problems and appropriate interventions can increase the nutrient intake and therefore overall health and well-being of older adults in long-term care facilities.

Signs that a resident may need feeding assistance or feeding:

  • Poor meal intake
  • Lack of interest in meal trays
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Physical inability to eat (unable to use arms, tremors that prevent self-feeding, etc).
  • Vision problems that prevent self-feeding.

*Often feeding problems are a combination of physical and cognitive impairment.
*Remember: many residents that require feeding are oriented and know what is going on around them.


Benefits of feeding a resident:

  • Increased oral intake with potential for improved nutritional and hydration status.
  • Meal-time interaction with staff.

Levels of feeding assistance:

  • Tray set-up
  • Limited assistance that may include cueing, assisting with the end of a meal after resident eats part of a meal, or feeding only certain food items.
  • Restorative feeding program (resident is encouraged to eat for himself with assistance provided as needed).
  • Resident is fed by staff.

Tray set-up techniques:

  • Wash hands
  • Make sure silverware is accessible
  • Open milk cartons, salt packets, etc
  • Butter bread and season food as needed
  • Cut meats or breads if needed
  • Cue resident to eat if necessary
  • Ask resident if there is anything else they need before moving on

Feeding techniques:

  • Treat resident with dignity and respect
  • Wash hands
  • Assure proper positioning of resident
  • Feed the resident small bites at a time
  • Alternate liquids with solids
  • Do not mix foods together
  • Cue resident to open mouth if necessary
  • Record intake as soon as possible after feeding resident