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  • Writer's pictureSandra Robinson

Feeding time at the zoo?

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Are there things that happen at your workplace that drive you mad?

Here are some of my bugbears;

  1. spouts on beakers

  2. people with dysphagia eating and drinking whilst lying flat or half asleep

  3. thickener use before a speech therapy assessment or screen

  4. pouring gravy on texture-modified meals

  5. mashing Level 6 soft and bite-sized diet meals

  6. referrals with no information beyond ‘swallow’

  7. crumbs in keyboards

  8. failure to wrap text in Excel


Yes, it’s fun working with me!

But there’s one thing I’ve never liked and I’m not the only one.

It’s demeaning, unhelpful, disrespectful and unclear in its use.

What is it?

It’s the word “feed”

As in “feed at risk” or “needs feeding” or “is fed” or even worse, “is a feeder” (I went puce when I heard a carer say of a patient that “he’s a feeder” (meaning that he could not eat for himself, not that he enjoyed helping others eat).

The people I support with dysphagia are adults.

We feed babies.

A baby is ‘fed’

We feed animals.

Giraffes at the zoo have to rely on humans to feed them

Assisting people with dysphagia to eat and drink is not feeding time at the zoo, and it’s not a baby feeding schedule.

Grown adults do not need ‘feeding’

We’re all quite rightly encouraged in healthcare to practice patient-centred and holistic care.

The only time “feeding” should be used is in relation to enteral feeding. Reporting that a patient is ‘tube-fed’ or receives a PEG or NG ‘feed’ is appropriate but not in terms of oral intake.

Some argue “comfort feeding” is an appropriate term in palliative or end of life care. I don’t agree in that context either.

What to say instead?

I argue that the following words describe what we should be doing, and afford people with dysphagia greater dignity;

  1. assist

  2. (physically) support

  3. help

  4. to eat and drink

  5. with food and drink

  6. with oral intake

Let’s stop “feeding”, eh?

Oh, and any ideas what to change “feed at risk” to?!

It sounds like you’re handing a peanut to a Gorilla.

He won’t thank you for a peanut


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