Tips for Feeding and Mealtimes

Eating is often associated with health and well-being, but it's a normal and natural process for your loved one to lose their appetite and require less nutrition. As your loved one weakens, they may experience:

  • Feeding Problems: Food going in too quickly - or too much going in at once - causes choking
  • Swallowing Problems: Food/liquid spilling into the airway interferes with breathing
  • Dysphagia: Difficulty or discomfort in swallowing is common in hospice patients

Assisting Your Loved One to Eat

  • Provide a protective covering for clothes
  • Prepare the food (cutting, buttering, etc.) while talking to your loved one about what's being served
  • Ask what they want to eat first and if they want salt or other seasonings
  • Slowly feed your loved one small bites from a spoon, naming each food as you offer it 
  • Allow time between bites for chewing and swallowing
  • Offer liquids between swallows, being careful these liquids are not too hot

What foods and fluids are best for a hospice patient?

  • Fluids are more difficult to swallow than soft foods
  • Chose foods that hold some shape; moist enough to prevent crumbling but dry enough to hold their shape (i.e. casseroles, custards, scrambled eggs)
  • Foods that crumble may go down the wrong pipe
  • Foods that are too moist may be drooled through the lips
  • Avoid sticky foods that stimulate thick mucus and make swallowing difficult (i.e. peanut butter) 
  • Dry foods can be moistened with margarine, gravy or broths 
  • If liquids are a problem, juices can be thickened with sherberts

What utensils should I use when feeding my loved one?

  • Using a straw with beverage containers will help your loved one
  • Shorten the length of drinking straws - this will help them suck more easily
  • Use short, lightweight drinking glasses
  • Encourage your loved one to take one sip at a time, hold it in their mouth, then swallow
  • Encourage smaller bites by using a teaspoon or small plastic spoon rather than a soup spoon

What's the best way to position my loved one for eating and drinking?

  • Eating with the head elevated encourages movement of food through the esophagus by gravity
  • Have your loved one sit as upright as possible when eating - and for a short time after eating 
  • Caution your loved one against talking during the meal or with a mouth full of food