The end of life process can be difficult, not just because of all the strong emotions that may be taking place in having to say goodbye, but the different well-meaning opinions going around about the “proper” types of services that should be offered.
Above and Beyond Home Health Care has observed all sorts of challenging situations where concerned people offer different opinions about what they think are the best choices for the person in hospice care. Perhaps it could be family members, health care providers or the patient themselves.
Ultimately, many professionals believe the patient’s wishes should be taken into account at a significant degree especially if they are experiencing high amounts of pain.
A general palliative care goal should also be to minimize as much pain as possible so someone can focus on other important things like spending extra time with family or completing necessary planning paperwork or other final arrangements.
Among the different views surrounding proper hospice care is use of a feeding tube. These can provide important liquid nutrients and hydration directly into the stomach and intestines in a way that’s easier than someone trying to eat, drink or be fed. Tubes can be useful for people who may have difficulties eating or even blockages that prevent them from eating without difficulties. It can be temporary, or in some hospice situations, permanent.
Supporters of feeding tubes say that they are useful, especially at a time when someone doesn’t have much appetite or motivation to eat regularly or worry about their food or drink intake.
Critics of them, however, say that providing artificial nutrition is something that other people shouldn’t be deciding on behalf of someone who may not be interested in eating or drinking anymore, and nature should take its course.
There are also some faith or ethical considerations that potentially can add to the conflict families can have about tubes: removing one could cause someone to starve or dehydrate, but leaving it in may prolong suffering. Or if someone is in a vegetative state, a tube won’t do anything to reverse any progressive health conditions or improve quality of life.
So what’s the correct point of view or appropriate course of action for people in the Mount Vernon area with regard to feeding tubes? In many cases, the answer should often be “whatever works for you or your loved one’s particular situation” rather than “everyone always has to do it this way all the time.”
For those on the fence or at least want to know more, medical providers believe it’s important for people to learn as much as they can. This can help them make more educated decisions when the time comes vs. being unsure or feeling too emotional.
This time of the year is actually a perfect opportunity to focus on learning more about how to use feeding tubes to improve someone’s quality of life. Feeding Tube Awareness Week takes place Feb. 5-9. Since 2011, this week has been dedicated to promoting “the benefits of feeding tubes as life-saving medical interventions.” It also helps educate people about the different reasons why a tube might be administered to an adult or a child, not just related to a hospice situation.
The whole concept of feeding tubes can be difficult for families, patients and providers, but they can also provide another medical option for someone who may have challenges eating or drinking.
Week organizers say February was chosen as an especially symbolic – it’s close to Valentine’s Day, a season of hearts. So a tube, which can be placed near the heart, can also help a loved one.
As beneficial as feeding tubes can be for many, they aren’t necessarily appropriate for everyone.
The Hospice Foundation, an advocate for feeding tubes in general, suggests that they shouldn’t be thought of as a way to keep someone alive longer, especially in circumstances where someone is near death. They can’t reverse disease either, and in some dementia cases, a tube can actually cause harm if someone doesn’t want it in, doesn’t realize why it’s there or tries to remove it on their own.
There could also be health complications, including increased risk of ulcers, pain or bloating.
What a feeding tube can do, however, is provide direct nutrition and hydration that the patient may not be able to get on their own, which is why they have a good deal of appeal in many situations.
Mount Vernon-area residents who may need hospice care or home health care services are welcome to discuss tubes with the staff.
In some cases, a patient may already have a feeding tube in place before they receive hospice care. Or they may need one later if their health condition changes.
Discussions may be required with the patient’s health care providers, any caregivers or family members any legal representatives and the patient themselves.
Overall, representatives from Above and Beyond Home Health Care will be able to discuss feeding tube options with their family members.