What are the pros and cons of using a feeding tube?

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My experience with inserting a feeding tube in my Dad's stomach has been horrific.
He had bed sores, (which the nursing home failed to, or chose NOT to, inform us) which my Dad already had infection running through his body. He died two days later after the feeding tube was inserted.
If I had it to do over again, I would not do it at all. It brought on much more unneccesary pain to his final days.
Which brings up another point, I really get aggravated at how people have an automatic response of "placing an elder in a facility"...It is not such an easy task. ALL facilities MUST be investigated, personal visits, interviews with current resident's and or their famillies. This website is to assist, advise, support CAREGIVERS who are caring for their elder at home.
My father had trouble swallowing regular food and liquids. He chose not to eat especially the thickened liquids. Dehydration and lack of nutrition became a real concern on a regular basis. I suggested,(not the doctors) a feeding tube and they went along with it. It was great. I made his food with a blender. I alternated between vegetables and fruits and proteins. The color came back to his face and he became stronger and happier. We were still able to give hims some "feel good" food by mouth like popsicals, pudding, yogurt, and things of that nature. They wanted me to buy the food in the cans for over $100. per case. They said, "Don't worry, insurance will pay for it." It was not as healthy as what I was making and cost 10X the price of home made. I was coached from a health foods store.

The negatives are that the client feels less normal because they do not eat the same way everyone else does. Thats why some food by mouth is still recommended if it works for them. You have to slowly inject the food 3X a day. You may have to buy and make the food but you would doing the same if they ate by mouth anyways. Infection at the point of entry is a possibility but if you keep it clean and covered it should not be a risk. The balloons inside keep the tube from pulling out or moving.
I would recommend it for the positives far outweighed the negatives in my father's case.
Good Luck with you choice and God Bless
Top Answer
This is a very emotionally driven decision in many cases. Is there a living will? What is the goal of artifical feeds? Longterm for someone with dementia differs from someone recovering from an acute illness with quality of life. Generally speaking though, if we are talking about someone with Advanced Dementia...it is part of the end staqe process. Most patients become a "failure to thrieve" with muscle wasting and cachexia. It is not starvation in the truist sense, but part of the end stage disease process. I would be very reluctant to place one, because it is much more difficult to make a decision to remove or stop feeds, but trust the natural process. As a former hospice nurse, I have witnessed the medical community make families feel guilty for giving up or withholding, however if you asked most if it was them, they would not! ? Go figure???? Anyway, the risks of placement #1...Aspiration pneumonia; as they are not able to swallow appropriately and not uncommon for reflux to occur. #2 skin breakdown as part of fluid overload if there is kidney insufficiency which could lead to edema, open wounds, and pain. These are all issues that should be weighed carefully before making a decision, but bottomline....if there is Advance Directives (living Will) stating no artificial nutrition or hydration you have your answer! If you don't have a Living Will, everyone consider. Pamela
Hospice is a wonderful choice when your elderly parent is so far along that the doctors want to use a feeding tube. Please look into the one close to you. I chose to have hospice come to my home to help me care for my mother. They are there for me day , night, and weekends. The main job of hospice is to help loved ones die in comfort without needless pain. Yes, it is very hard to see my mother go through the process of dying. . She is comforted to know that she is in her own home with her family. Hospice not only helps the one who is dying but helps the family through this time and after, No one should have to go through Sylvester18s bad experiences with a loved one. Cost is not an issue. Medicare pays for hospice. People donate money and time to help the dying and those who grieve. Sylvester18, I am so sorry you did not know about hospice. My heart goes out to you for I too am in this journey right now .and plan to use the grieving groups provided by hospice after my mother is gone.
Alot of people don't realize that Hospice is an entitlement benefit with Medicare Part A and covered 100%!!!! However, Medicare has begun to srutinize hospice dervices and the family must elect "palliative" care; no agressive treatments such as the artifical feeds and hydration in regards to end stage dementia. Other disease processes may allow, but the patient needs to meet criteria for the disease. For dementia they need a FAST scale of 7, meaning they need complete assist with ADL's, are losing weight (failure to thrieve) and no meaningful conversation, mostly bedridden or whellchair bound. Good luck!
My initial thought is not to insert a feeding tube unless it's a temporary thing, while healing is going on or some kind of recuperation, but then I read tommullen's post, and I may alter my opinion. I guess if it seems as if the person would like to eat, but just can't swallow anymore, it might be worth doing. But if a person is showing no interest in eating, I'm inclined to say don't do it. They did put one in my grandma (I was not part of the decision makers for her), and I think her daughters would make a different decision today. Maybe. Who knows? You do the best you can in the moment with the information you have. I don't think I would put one in my mom, who now has dementia. In fact, i am pretty sure I would not, as I seek to avoid the hospital at nearly all costs.

Thank You Everyone for your support and very helpful answers! My husband has Parkinson's disease. He is still able to swallow and even though the doctors are telling me this will not be ongoing and that he is already showing some signs of aspiration of food to his lungs, he has not had any problems except for 40lb weight loss over the past 3 years and lots of mucous with very slow swallowing and eating over all. I lean toward natural healing and have found that American Botanical Pharmacy's Echinacea, Super Tonic and Lung formulas are helping dry up some of the mucous and also are keeping his lungs healthy. He has not experienced any pneumonia like symptoms. Weight loss is my greatest concern, although he gets lots of smoothies and does well with them. I recently found an online article through "GOOGLE" posted by a brave woman whose daughter had a feeding tube for many years.
As you have said, it is an emotional, difficult decision. My husband also has a Living Will stating 'no hydration'. We are going to be talking about this for awhile. Hugs to ALL of You and Thanks Again!
my mother has dementia, she is 68 years old. all she wants to eat is eggo waffles/syrup and 2 ensure in the morning for breakfast .she don't want to eat any dinner, she feels that that's the only meal she suppose to have, but, she drinks the ensure through out the day, like 6. I cant keep enough of it, it's very expensive, $30 a case at sams, and that's the cheapest iv found. is there a program that pays for this stuff, she has medicade and medicare.the ensure is the only thing that's keeping her alive, I really don't want to put her on the feeding tube, because she wont keep it in, she is very stubborne. im an only child 42 trying to care for my mother, im not in the best of health myself. its difficult on a daily basis to care for her. she has lost a lot of weight in the past 3 to 4 months.i don't know what to do anymore. HELP!!!
Pro-they may live longer
Con-they may die more slowly
If their brain is dying because of Alzheimer's I don't know if it makes sense to prolong the dying process. If their brain is working well and they have a measure of satisfaction from life, go for it.
I think often feeding tubes are used to feed the emotional needs of the family as much as the physical needs of the patient.
Is a feeding tube the right thing? Being pressured by doctors to do so. My loved one is 89 years old, pneumonia in both lungs, MRSA, congestive heart failure, Bad leak in one of her heart valves, pacemaker, currently in the hospital, has breathing problems and cannot swallow food very well, no interest in food and has difficulty swallowing. She has directive to physicians saying "no feeding tube"

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