CNA Job Duties: Helping Feed and Hydrate Patients

When it comes to being healthy and living a healthy lifestyle, eating a healthy diet and making sure you’re drinking enough water is very important. And guess what? That’s no different for your patients when you’re working as a CNA! As a Certified Nursing Assistant, one of your most important duties will be helping feed and hydrate patients. Knowing when and how to assist will vary from patient to patient and it can be a complicated process but below is a guide to provide clarification on what you be asked to do relating to this job responsibility.

Determining the needs of your patients

Maintaining the highest possible level of independence is very important to many patients. Completing their own self-care, including feeding and hydration, is a large part of this. For this reason, patients should complete as much of these tasks as possible on their own. A patient may just need assistance with cutting up their food or opening packages while another patient with vision problems may just need verbal cues. Some patients will require complete assistance with eating, including cutting-up food and feeding them. Before beginning a feeding routine be certain to ask the patient what assistance they require.

The process to feeding patients

Before beginning any feeding process, make certain to wash and dry your hands. Remember to identify yourself to the patient and explain what you are doing throughout the process. Also, make certain the patient has the opportunity to use the restroom and wash their hands before beginning. Ensure the patient is in a sitting position, offering assistance as needed, and that their clothes are protected from food spills. It is important to be at eye level with the patient so lower or raise the bed as needed

Due to the dietary restrictions of some patients, it is very important to confirm you have the correct patient tray and the food provided matches their dietary guidelines (i.e. no salt added). Next, make certain all food and liquids are at a comfortable temperature to avoid risk of mouth burns.

If the patient does not need complete assistance with feeding, assist with whatever tasks are needed, at their direction. If cutting-up food, remember to cut small, bite size pieces in order to minimize choking risk.

For patients that require complete assistance make certain all food is cut into small and use the correct utensil. Also, after each bite make certain the patient has chewed and swallowed the food. In addition, provide hydration between each bite, or according to the patient’s preference.

During the meal remember to interact with patients in a natural manner, such as making conversation. Once the meal is complete, remove the tray, clean the area and wash the patient’s hands and face. Lastly, make certain to wash your hands and record food and liquid intake on the patient’s chart.

Difficulties of this job responsibility

One of the most common difficulties in feeding patients is the discomfort that CNA’s may feel at the idea of having to feed an adult. Engaging in conversation, even if the patient cannot respond, may help decrease this feeling and ease the patient’s mood.

Another difficulty that occurs during this job responsibility for CNAs is when trying to complete feeding routines for multiple patients when the eating process can take a long time for each patient. In this case, try feeding the patient for 10 minutes, assist another patient, and come back to the first patient. This allows the patient to regain an appetite potentially and not feel rushed.

Often times, a patient can be reluctant to eat. In this case, try to eliminate surrounding distractions and increase the patient’s interest in food by offering foods the consumer likes. Appeal to their senses through tantalizing smells and appealing presentation the best you can.

Don’t hesitate to ask other CNA’s how they approach these difficulties. You are not trying to reinvent the wheel with this job responsibility, so get the advice from someone that has been there and done it before. Other nursing assistants will have awesome tips on how to help feed and hydrate patients properly!

Feeding patients requires teamwork

While it may be the responsibility of the CNA to complete the feeding routine, other healthcare professionals will be involved as well. Specific dietary restrictions or needs of the patient, such as low sodium or required snacks, can be ordered by the patient’s physician or a registered dietician. In addition, a registered nurse will oversee the feeding program and direct the CNA in the completion of these tasks.

In some institutions there may be “feeding assistants” who are trained and available for feeding patients. This is to alleviate the time crunch on CNA’s during the mealtime which is generally very rushed.

While the responsibly of helping feed and hydrate a patient can be daunting, a licensed CNA training class should teach you everything you need to know to prepare for this job duty as a CNA. Yes, we have said this before, but this is a really important job duty as a CNA. (If you haven’t already caught on by now, we think CNA’s are pretty important J) However, don’t let that intimidate you as a nursing assistant. Pay attention in your training program and listen to what your supervisors tell you to do on the job and this job duty will be a breeze. Malnutrition is a big concern for patients in nursing care settings, so your role in providing assistance in feeding is vitally important. While you won’t be performing this job duty on you own as a nursing assistant, you will play a big part if it becomes one of your job responsibilities where you work.