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How to feed someone you care for

If you're a carer, try to make sure the person you care for eats and drinks well. Eating a limited diet or not getting enough food can lead to malnutrition.

Malnutrition can be caused by:

  • some diseases, such as cancer
  • some medicines, if they interfere with your body's ability to take in nutrients
  • problems with false teeth (dentures) making eating difficult
  • problems with swallowing and chewing
  • lack of appetite
  • loss of smell or taste
  • depression

If the person you care for isn't getting enough nutrients, their medical treatment may not work as well.

Try to encourage good nutrition and hydration, and make mealtimes enjoyable for the person you care for.

High-protein foods

Base their meals and snacks on foods that are high in energy and protein. These include:

  • meat
  • oily fish (such as salmon and mackerel)
  • eggs
  • nuts
  • full-fat dairy, such as yoghurt or cheese

Try to get them to have small meals and snacks every 2 to 3 hours. Warm milky drinks can also help to bump up nutrients and calories.

Drinking enough fluids

It's important that the person you care for drinks water and other fluids throughout the day. But if their appetite is poor, avoid too many drinks just before meals.

Read more about water and drinks.

Plan your meals

Try to include their favourite foods in a weekly meal plan.

Make mealtimes a fun and social occasion by sitting down at the table and eating together.

Get more tips on food and diet.

Specific nutritional needs

Be aware of any difficulties the person you care for may have that affects what they can eat. For example, they may have food allergiesor diabetes. Speak to their GP if you're not sure what their nutritional needs are.

Eating and drinking aids

If the person you care for struggles with cups or cutlery, there is specialist equipment that can help, such as no-spill cups or easy-to-handle knives and forks. Mention this difficulty at the community care assessment to see if any help is available from social services.

Help for swallowing difficulties

If the person you care for has difficulty swallowing food, contact the GP.

You might be referred to a specialist for help, which may include nutritional supplements or alternative feeding methods, such as a nasogastric tube (a tube that goes down the nose into the stomach) or percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) - where a feeding tube is surgically implanted into the stomach.

Read more about malnutrition treatment.

'Meals on wheels'

If you can't shop for, prepare or cook a meal, then the council may be able to help you by delivering ready meals to you at home. These are commonly known as "meals on wheels".

In Plymouth, this service is delivered by Plymouth Community Meals.

This page is based on content that originated from the NHS adapted)

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