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Feeding Assistant Program: FAQs

Feeding assistants are trained and employed by nursing facilities. They help residents eat and drink. That includes residents who may have mental disabilities. The goal is to prevent unplanned weight loss and dehydration.

Feeding assistants help CNAs (certified nurse aides) and don't replace licensed nursing staff. They only help residents who can't or don't eat by themselves because of physical or mental disabilities, or those who need prompts to eat or drink. They don't help those with complicated problems with eating and drinking, such as trouble swallowing.

Learn more about the Feeding Assistant Program

FAQs (frequently asked questions)

A feeding assistant is someone who meets certain requirements. They're paid by a nursing facility to help residents eat and drink. They can't help residents who have a complicated problem with eating and drinking.

Yes, if they've been trained on how to do so in class. If they haven't received training on this topic, they can't. Students can work at the same facility where they're receiving training for up to 120 days.

Each facility must provide training through a state-approved program.

There are several approved curricula. A facility must choose a curriculum and develop a program based on its resident population.

It then must apply for program approval. Learn more about the approval process.

Yes. You must pass both with a score of 75% or higher.

The Division of Quality Assurance decides. The course must meet state and federal requirements.

No. The training should reflect a facility's resident population. Because technical colleges don't have residents, they can't host this training.

Yes, if both facilities are approved for training. Here are two examples:

  • A feeding assistant trains at facility A, works there, but then quits and works at facility B. Facility B is approved to train feeding assistants. That means it only needs to train the assistant on its resident population and policies. The rest of the required training transfers.
  • A feeding assistant trains at facility A and leaves to work at facility C. Facility C is not approved to train feeding assistants. That means the person can't work as a feeding assistant there.

The facility must request the course description from the school. If the course didn't include feeding training—and the person can't prove they took it—they must enroll in the program.

Feeding assistants must take an annual training and assessment.

Learn about records facilities must keep for feeding assistants.

That's up to each facility. Instructors' skills should reflect the needs of the facility and its residents.

The instructor may bring in other instructors to teach or demonstrate skills as needed.

Feeding assistants can't be instructors.

Each program should identify and serve the needs of its specific resident population. This training must include:

  • An overview of the residents' health needs. That includes medicines and services.
  • How to meet the needs of residents with more than one illness.
  • Instruction on who feeding assistants can help.

Yes, if the staff member completed an approved training program. The same requirements for feeding assistants apply.

The charge nurse decides, based on their recent assessment of residents' conditions and care plans.

They can:

  • Help residents wipe their hands and face.
  • Move residents in and out of the dining room.
  • Open milk cartons.
  • Put on clothing protectors.

They can't perform any other services.

Feeding assistants can help residents who don't have complicated problems with eating or drinking. An example of that is trouble swallowing. They can help residents who can eat or drink by themselves but need prompting.

It can mean:

  • Frequent lung infections.
  • Intravenous feedings.
  • Trouble swallowing.

RNs (registered nurses) or LPNs (licensed practical nurses). The facility must make sure these supervisors are available.

A supervising nurse must be on the same unit, floor, or wing as the feeding assistant.

It means the feeding assistant must know how to find the nurse right away in the case of an emergency.

It depends on the reason for the special diet. If someone has trouble swallowing, for example, then a nurse or nurse aide must help them. If the resident has missing teeth but no trouble swallowing or chewing, the feeding assistant can help.

Yes, as long as they don't feed the residents. Feeding assistants can help at these outings if the residents don't have chewing or swallowing problems and if they're supervised.

Yes. Any health worker must receive appropriate training to help residents eat and drink. Certain licensed health workers receive this as part of their education. These workers may include:

  • Dietitians.
  • Licensed practical nurses.
  • Occupational therapists.
  • Registered nurses.
  • Speech therapists.

Health workers who haven't received this training as part of their education must complete the program.

Staff members don't have to receive feeding assistant training if they're attending snack activities with residents who:

  • Aren't on a special diet.
  • Don't have a history of eating problems.
  • Don't need help with eating or drinking.

Those who took required training before July 31, 2004, can work as feeding assistants. Those who didn't take the training by this date must have taken the training program since then and passed an assessment.

Can facilities count feeding assistants toward their minimum staff requirements?

No. They can't count feeding assistants toward their staff requirements.

The facility must get a caregiver background check on their potential hire. The Wisconsin Caregiver Misconduct Registry lists names of feeding assistants with proven misconduct complaints.

Division of Quality Assurance surveyors are required to check on facilities:

That includes observing residents in dining rooms and at snack services. If a surveyor sees someone other than a nurse or nurse aide helping a resident with a choking or swallowing risk eat or drink, they'll investigate. That will include observations, interviews, and record reviews to determine whether the facility is following the rules.

This is decided on a case-by-case basis. If a facility can't host a nurse aide training program because the Division of Quality Assurance finds it doesn't provide a high quality of care, the feeding assistant training program may be stopped, too. Feeding assistant programs may ask for a program waiver by writing to the Division of Quality Assurance's Office of Caregiver Quality. The office will either approve or deny the request within 45 days.

No. There is no change.

Yes. Each facility must assess risks and help the volunteer or family member as needed.

Yes. Feeding assistants meet Wisconsin's definition of a caregiver, so misconduct complaints against them are reported. The Wisconsin Caregiver Misconduct Registry lists names of feeding assistants with proven complaints. For more information, read about caregiver misconduct reporting.

Yes. If a program runs under conditions other than those approved in their application, it may:

  • Be suspended.
  • Have its approval revoked.
  • Receive a correction plan.

Learn more about how approval may be withdrawn.

Learn more about how we regulate our care programs

Last revised June 7, 2023