Skip to main content

How to Feed A Person

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Sep 3, 2023.

Why does a person need help being fed?

A person may need to be fed or have help during mealtimes if he or she has certain health problems. These may include injury or surgery on an arm or hand, blindness, or a stroke.

When and how much should the person be fed?

The amount of food a person eats may change if he or she needs to stay in bed most of the time. He or she may need to eat smaller meals more often. He or she may need to eat when he or she takes certain medicines. He or she may also need to follow a special diet if he or she has certain medical conditions. Ask the person's healthcare provider if he or she needs to be on a special diet.

What are the steps for feeding a person?

  • Get ready for mealtime:
    • Ask the person if he or she needs to use the bathroom.
    • Wash the person's hands or help him or her wash his or her hands, if needed.
    • Help him or her sit upright as much as possible. If allowed, help him or her into a chair or raise the head of the bed. Put pillows behind his or her back for comfort and support.
  • Place items needed for feeding within easy reach:
    • Over-bed table
    • Meal tray
    • Towels
    • Straws
    • Feeding devices, such as special spoons or a syringe
  • Feed the person:
    • Sit in a chair close to the person. Tell him or her what food is on the plate. Describe how it is prepared if he or she has vision problems.
    • Ask the person which food he or she wants to eat first.
    • A person who has had a stroke may have weakness and numbness on one side of his or her body. If the person you are feeding has had a stroke, sit on the side that is not numb or weak. Put the spoon on the side of his or her mouth that has feeling. Be sure he or she is swallowing the food. Make sure the food is not collecting on the numb side of his or her mouth.
    • You may want to test how much the person can swallow by first giving him or her a small amount of water with a spoon.
    • Put a small amount of food on the tip of the spoon. If he or she tends to choke, add a little water or other liquid on the spoon. This will help him or her swallow the food.
    • Allow the person to eat at his or her own pace. Give him or her time to chew the food completely. Watch his or her throat to make sure he or she has swallowed all of the food. Ask if he or she is ready for more food before you feed it to him or her.
    • Stop feeding the person if he or she tells or shows you he or she has had enough.

What should I do if the person has a poor appetite?

  • Make the mealtime enjoyable. Ask him or her if he or she would like to listen to his or her favorite music. Arrange for a family member or friend to visit with him or her during the meal.
  • Give him or her 5 to 6 small meals during the day instead of 3 big meals.
  • Offer him or her healthy snacks, such as fruit or cheese, if he or she gets hungry between meals.
  • Encourage him or her to walk before a meal if he or she is able. Walking may help to increase his or her appetite.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.