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Elderly people may need special dietary care due to illness or a deterioration in their swallowing function. Whether it is a change of diet or cooking for people with dysphagia, nutritional requirements must be met. In the earlier article, we discussed how to prepare suitable food for family members in need of assistance. We will examine in the following paragraphs how caregivers can help the elderly  with eating difficulties.

Preparing suitable food

Preparation before meals

How to feed safely

Dealing with emergencies during eating

After meal care

Preparing suitable food

Due to the different ingesting capabilities of elderly people, it is advisable to learn first from the relevant professionals about the appropriate texture and firmness of solid food and drinks suitable for each elderly, avoiding prohibited ingredients and reducing risks at meals.  Choose and cook suitable ingredients
so that the elderly person can eat delicious and nutritious meals.
Preparation before meals
  •  Suitable environment
A clean and pleasant environment with sufficient lighting that is free from distractions allows the elderly to concentrate on their meals.
  • Suitable tableware
  1. Keep tableware clean, use nonslip tableware and check their safety
  2. Choose appropriate tableware, such as forks and spoons instead of chopsticks, to help the elderly to eat with ease
  3. Use small teaspoons which are easier for the control of quantity of food eaten in each meal and also help reduce the risk of choking.
  4. Select drinking tube or specially designed cup to control the flow and speed of liquid when drinking.
  5. If necessary, consult the occupational therapist and use appropriate eating AIDS, such as spoon or fork with thick handle, improved chopsticks, tall bowls with curved rims.
  • Preparing the elderly
Elderly people who need to wear dentures should first be assisted in putting on
their dentures. In addition, correct eating postures are very important for safe swallowing. The elderly should be assisted to sit upright and have a comfortable posture at a table of appropriate height.
How to feed safely

After making the above preparations, you can start to help the elderly eat. During the feeding process, you should pay attention to the following :
  • Tableware and food are placed on the table and in front of the elderly
  • Dining apron should be worn to protect the clothing
  • The caregiver who feeds sits next to the elderly . It is best to sit at the same height as the elderly so that the swallowing process  can be closely observed.
  • Assist the elderly to take small bites. One teaspoon should be fed each time, and the elderly encouraged to chew and swallow slowly. Do not continue feeding until the elderly completely finishes swallowing the teaspoon of food.
  • When feeding, place the food in the appropriate place in the mouth.
  • Observe the swallowing.
  • Give the elderly a small amount of water to moisten the mouth from time to time.
Dealing with emergencies during eating

Observe closely when the elderly is eating. In case of abnormal conditions, such as suspected choking, or inability to speak, or dyspnea, or when the patient presses his hand on his neck with obvious blood vessels seen on his face or neck, or his lips turns blue, or in severe cases, the elderly loses consciousness, the caregiver must keep calm and deal with the crisis as quickly as possible. If necessary, the elderly must be immediately transferred to the hospital for first aid.

After meal care
  • Oral care after meals: if there is food residue in the mouth, clean it immediately
  • Wipe the mouth and hands of the elderly with a wet towel . Clean dentures and tableware
  • After eating, do not immediately let the elderly lie down . Let him sit upright for at least one hour to avoid reflux of the swallowed food towards the throat.

Caregivers with a sufficient understanding of the elderly's eating capabilities,  who prepare appropriate and nutritious dishes for the elderly members at home and who pay attention to feeding details and skills, will find taking care of elderlies during meal times a much easier task
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