My 89-year-old mom has dementia and lung cancer and does not want to eat or drink. What do I do?

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My mother is 89 years old and has dementia and lung cancer. She recognizes everybody in the family, has no short memory and no interest in anything. She spends her days sleeping, watching the occasional tv show but mostly just has the tv on. She needs assistance to only from the bed or her sofa to the bathroom. Meal times have become unbearable as it takes hours for her to finish a very small portion. Most times she chews and chews and keeps it in her mouth unless we tell her to try to swallow. When asked she says she is not in pain and does not know why she doesn't want to eat. It is very painful to see her struggle with every meal and also very hard keep encouraging her to eat when she looks grossed out by it as soon as she sees it, even if we make what she used to really like. Her weight is 92 lbs. (42 kgs). We do not know what to do any more. A doctor suggested its time for a feeding tube. We really do not want to do that as she is still aware and will not withstand it. Any information would be much appreciated.

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what kind of things is she eating?
my mum in laws mum has really bad dementia and now she has food that is like mash and things because she was the same but only because she doesn't know how to swallow anymore and all she would do is chew and chew and even with drink she would struggle.

used to feed her sandwiches at first then after a while she just got more worse and lead to like mushed up food for her she used to be fine eating meals with a fork or spoons but after a year she lost it all completely and she has to be fed by carer at a home now.
cos meal times when she lived with me was so bad didn't even bother giving her a fork gave her finger food..

had to watch her all the time if they was tissues she would try eating everything..

I'm sorry your going through a difficult time I hope you can find a solution maybe ya just need to change tack..

good luck :)
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Gabs313, I just went through the dying process with my father-in-law, on hospice and with lung cancer, he passed away 2 weeks ago.

He was with us and was home with us for 6 weeks prior to his death with the help of Home hospice. Near the end he showed very little interest in food and our hospice team recommended that we do not push food but only to give him since he was interested in no matter what the calorie or sugar content. Things like Carnation Instant Breakfast, ice cream, applesauce, puddings, raisin bread toast and coffee. Snacks like mashed potatoes and gravy anything she might be interested in even if only to take a few bites is all she really needs now, at the end of her life.

I am guessing that your Mom is not going through Chemotherapy or Radiation therapy in attempts to cure at this time? As that is a different set of answers, and I understand why you would need her to eat to maintain her weight and health while attempting to fight the good fight.

But if not, and it is her desire to have natural death, and she does get to the stage of absolutely no interest for food intake, you simply keep them a little spongettes, ice chips and the like, but never Force fluids into their mouth as they can choke, and aspirate.

Now is the time for hospice, in my opinion, they will be extremely helpful as you transition into the active dying phase.

It's very difficult to adjust your thinking that "we need to get calories" into them, "how are we going to get them to eat", until you get that ahh-Haa moment, and you allow nature to takes it course, and even then it's difficult. Our natural instincts are to heal them, to fix them, but we cannot, and forcing them to eat put so much pressure on their digestive system, it's time to realize that and allow them to drift out of this world, comfortably and quietly.

I had a wonderful experience with our hospice team, our Nurses, Home aide and bath aide, our Chaplain, all of them were wonderful, and so incredibly helpful throughout his dying process.

It should be all about her comfort now, no matter if she is sleepy or even unconscious in the final days, she at least deserves to be comfortable, and this is where a lot of folks get mixed up about what Hospice does.

Your Mom like our Dad is elderly, has a life ending diagnosis, and the very best that we can do for them is to keep them in a loving environment if possible, as happy as possible, surrounded by their Loved Ones, and Comfortable. Please, if you haven't already, call in Hospice for consult, and see how they can help you make your Mom's transition into death, the best that it can be. Take care of you too!
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deargabs313
I will be 80 yrs old and would not like to be living artifically. As we age our body does not perform as it used to. I had a stroke in my eye 20 yrs ago and have found ways to live with that although I can no longer do the needlework I loved to do - I also love to read and it became a problem - so I bought myself a Kindle and I can make the print as large as I need- I have constant pain in my spine (arthritis) and cannot stand or walk but for a little while. However I do still get around - I use my rolling walker as a wheelbarrow. It seems that every few years my body quits in some way - I just adjust. All of us will pass away sooner or later. At my age I take reasonable care of myself - I have hired people to do the things I can no longer do - my 3 sons are always there to help me but I prefer to be as independent as possible. I am not in any assisted living - I also take care of a dear old friend of mine who is 83 - with a little dementia- and I have accepted the reality that I will pass on some day. In the meantime I will make my own decisions about how I will cope. I would hate hate to be kept alive by artificial means - but would welcome any comfort that pain killers could offer. I hope to pass away in peace. I have lived a good and interesting life - my sons are a blessing to me - I am a happy woman. I accept all the medications and directions my doctors' give me - what I would never accept is to be kept alive artifically. I HAVE DNR POSTED ON EVERY DOCUMENT I HAVE. I don't have a death wish - I just think there is a time for everything including dying. So I am just writing to tell you my thoughts about aging.
Your mother seems like a very nice loving person - God Bless Her! What is her thoughts about this forced feeding? That will give you the answer you need and can supervise knowing that you have fulfilled her wishes.
God Bless You and give you strength
RosePetal
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I absolutely agree with CW and Blainne. Your mother has a terminal disease and it is very normal to not want to eat as the end of life approaches. In fact using a feeding tube will probably increase her suffering as her body begins to shut down and is not able to process the food. Do not even try to bring her to the table unless she wants to sit with you. Try and get her to ontinue to drink a little of her favorite beverages Just to keep her mouth moist and comfortable. It is OK to offer her a spoonful of whatever you are eating if she fancies it but don't make her a plate unless she asks and certainly don't wake her up for meals. Sleeping a lot is part of the withdrawing she is beginning.
It is definitely time for Hospice if you feel you want to use their services. Even if you are managing her care the support can be very helpful before and after a death.
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Thank you cwillie and blannie for your comments. Yes, we realize now that we can not force her to eat any more , instead we will try and find treats that she will enjoy. We don't want her to please us, we want her to feel that she is being heard. Thanks again!
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This is so difficult, I know. My mom passed away at the end of May and near the end, she wasn't hungry and didn't want to eat. I tempted her with all of her prior favorites too, and she'd take a bite and say she was full. Or she wasn't hungry and didn't eat at all. As a loving daughter, it's very, very hard to watch your parent come to that point. But it is what it is - your mom, at 89 with a set of medical issues, is coming to the end of the line.

Please consider bringing in hospice to help you with this natural and inevitable transition. While my experience with hospice wasn't ideal, they did provide me with a lot of knowledge I didn't have about where mom was in her transition and what I could expect. It was very helpful and comforting to have that knowledge about what was happening and what to expect. {{{{Hugs}}}}
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She is 89 with dementia and lung cancer, is not hungry and the food "grosses her out". You say that mealtimes are unbearably painful for both of you, but that is because you are trying to force her to eat. You need to be realistic about what would she gain from the feeding tube, perhaps a few more months and less stress around meal times? That the doctor suggested a feeding tube tells me that you are not accepting of her prognosis and are pushing for a solution. I'm not trying to be cruel, but I think you need to consider that it is time to allow her to stop eating if she wants to. Of course you can offer her tempting bites of her favourites if she asks, but stop trying to get her to eat meals. It's not cruel, what you are doing now may be. You will not be starving her her to death, rather she will be succumbing to her diseases... and she isn't expressing a desire for food, in fact she is only trying to eat to please you. I'm sorry you are at this place, the decision to stop feeding at the end of life is extremely emotional because it goes against all our instincts, but it is a natural process and has been well studied. Perhaps some online research about "eating at end of life" will help you with your decision.
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