As folks move into their later years, one of the last things they are generally able to perform is the task of feeding themselves. Once they are no longer able to perform this task, it’s incumbent on your or the person proving their care to make the feeding process as dignified as possible. If you perform this task in a demeaning way, your elder is likely to run into issues with self esteem, retain a poor self image and eventually could fall into a depressed state. Be respectful of your elder when feeding them – doing so will help make their remaining time much more enjoyable.

Here are five tips you may find helpful when dealing with feeding your elder:

1. Test food temperature by putting a drop inside of your wrist

As you are doing this, ask your elder how they like the temperature of their food. If they say hot, clearly you aren’t going to give them food that will scald their mouth, but be sure they are part of the process when determining the temperature of the food you are serving them.

2. Don’t make the assumption the entire meal has to be spoon fed

If your elder asks for a spoon or fork, but all means give it to them and let them try to feed themselves. If they can’t use reassuring words and praise them for their attempt.

3. Mix up the food you are feeding your elder

Mix up the meal – make it interesting. For example, give them a bite of steak, then a bit of vegetables, then maybe a bite of desert to keep things interesting. Also – vary the use of utensils. Don’t always use a spoon as this may appear like you are treating your elder like a baby. But in both cases, ask your elder first – give them the opportunity to make the decision.

4. Offer liquids often

This is important so that food will go down more easily. Also – be sure to check your elder’s mouth after the meal to ensure that all the food has been swallowed. If there is any food remaining, be sure to have them spit it out or swallow it. Failure to do so could be aspirated later on, which could end up with serious consequences.

5. Don’t beg your elder to eat

Never, ever force your elder to eat. If they don’t want to eat, try again later. Never treat them like a baby or tell them they will get sick if they don’t eat, or tell them that if they want you to be happy, they will eat their food as you’ve asked. Remember, dignity.

Always be sure to keep your elder in an upright position for at least 30 minutes after meal time to prevent aspiration pneumonia.