If your elderly parent was recently released from the hospital after a stroke, you may have decided to take care of them in your home. However, you may find yourself overwhelmed with taking care of their needs, especially when they need to eat. If so, use the following tips for making mealtimes easier:
Set Everything up on Their Unaffected Side
After having their stroke, your parent most likely has one side that is weaker than the other. Even if they have restored some movement to their affected arm, they may still have problems with holding a fork or wrapping their fingers around a glass.
When you set up their meal setting, make sure you place all utensils and drinkware on the side closest to their unaffected arm. This not only keeps them from having to reach across their body to pick up what they need, but it also encourages them to feed themselves as much as possible and help regain some of their independence.
Sit Them up as Much as Possible
After setting up their tray, the next thing you can do to make mealtime easier is to sit them up as much as possible. Doing so not only helps them swallow more easily, but it can also keep food or liquid from going into their lungs and causing aspiration pneumonia.
If your parent tends to slide towards their affected side when you sit them up to eat, prop them up with a pillow or two. This helps their upper body straight so that the food has a straight, direct path to their stomach.
Set Aside Ample Time
Whether your parent can feed themselves or needs you to do it for them, it is important to set aside ample time for them to eat. Especially if their ability to swallow was affected by the stroke, they may have to chew and swallow slowly to keep from choking.
If you do not allow enough time for them to eat at their own pace, they may try to rush and could aspirate. If you find you cannot set aside the time because of work or family obligations, you may want to think about getting some help.
Using the above tips can help make feeding your parent after their stroke a little easier on both you and them. However, if you feel they need more attention or care than you are able to provide, contact local in-home elder care services to discuss your options obtaining help with your and your parent's situation.