My father’s health has been steadily declining for the past four months. He entered the nursing home with my mother about two years ago. He adjusted well and even put on weight. He also participated in many of the activities. He began to have episodes in which he had no appetite and wanted to stay in bed. This happened sometimes when he was home but he would rebound. Well, he is not rebounding.
He has been having trouble swallowing (again, we had observed this at home too). He has been hospitalized twice for aspiration pneumonia and low blood sugar, They have stabilized the blood sugar, but even with physical therapy, he has been unable to swallow even mechanical (chopped up food). He is on puréed food, which he hates, and has lost a lot of weight. He developed C-diff from the antibiotics used to treat the pneumonia and now has a contracted leg from his stay in the hospital.
My four siblings and I had a care meeting with the LTC facility and told them that my father told us that he doesn’t want to eat puréed food anymore and would rather take his chances on pneumonia. They encouraged us to try seasoning his food with his favorite seasonings and that seemed to work for a while, but he is still losing weight and now said he will go on a hunger strike if they continue to serve him that “crap”.
The facility has done quite a bit. He is well-loved there. He has had several rounds with the resident physical therapists trying to get him to swallow correctly. The therapists think it may be residual damage from two massive strokes he had 25 years ago. They have put gravy over the food to make it more palatable. They hand feed him, but he is refusing to eat. They have put some of their most reliable and efficient aids in my parents’ hall. I asked one how long she will be assigned to that hall (they rotate them to different halls after a few weeks), and she said she would be on his hall indefinitely.
We asked at the care meeting if it was time for Hospice to be called and they said no. That was a month ago, and he is worse. We know that this could be my father’s life winding down. He does not want to be sent to the hospital again and has stated that he does not want a feeding tube. My brother just signed a waver stating that my father wants to eat regular food despite the consequences, but today he tried to feed him chopped up food, and he couldn’t swallow it.
It is all so sad to see him wasting away. He is 89 but looks 99. And now my mother will be facing living without him. We, and she, always thought that she would go first because she had more health problems.
I guess, at this point, I am asking for any advice or words of wisdom from anyone who has experienced their loved one dying from eating issues. Is there anything else that can be done? He is not in pain, just weak and fading.