Your question and answer guide to hospice care

 

Q: Why does my loved one show disinterest or refuse to eat?

A: There are many reasons why your loved one may not desire to eat. Many of these reasons are a natural part of the body’s process of dying. Following is a short list of them:
 
Decreased metabolism/decreased appetite: As your loved one is less active, the body needs less food to survive. Therefore, your loved one’s appetite will also decrease.

Alterations in taste: The ability to taste may decline, alter, and eventually may not be there at all. When something does not taste good or is tasteless, eating may not be something that is enjoyed anymore.
Fatigue: Often people are more tired closer to the end of life. They may rather sleep than worry about eating.

Difficulty swallowing/decreased interest: The ability to swallow may become more difficult. If swallowing starts to become harder, your loved one may begin to cough more often. When eating becomes more of a chore than a pleasure, he/she may also lose interest in it.

 

Q: My loved one has a very dry mouth. What can I do to make him/her more comfortable?

A: As your loved one draws closer to death, the desire to drink liquids may also decrease. As time goes on, swallowing may also be painful. Often it even becomes more difficult to swallow liquids. There are a few things that you can do to help:
 
Mouth swabs: Hospice will provide you with soft mouth swabs to clean your loved one’s mouth.

Ice chips/juice cubes: If your loved one has a favorite type of juice, you may try putting it in an ice cube tray and offer the juice cubes to suck on. Small chips of ice may also moisten the mouth. (If swallowing is difficult, place ice chips or frozen juices in a washcloth and suck on the washcloth.)

Lemon drops/hard candy: Sucking on hand candy will increase the saliva in the mouth, making it less dry and sore.

Lip Balm: You can apply this to your loved one’s lips every two hours to moisten his/her lips and prevent cracking.
 

Q: My loved one does want to eat, but is there anything I can do to help?

A: There are a few things that you can do to make this experience more pleasant:
 
Attractive preparation: Try to use different colors on the plate.

Favorite foods: Try to think of your loved one’s special foods to serve them.

Strong spices: Due to the decrease in taste sensation, a lot of spices may be needed for your loved one to enjoy the food.

Small portions: Often if your loved one desires to eat, he/ she still will not be able to eat a lot. Small portions of food will seem less threatening and may give your loved one a sense of comfort for eating all that was served.

Eat when hungry: Only give food to your loved one when he/ she asks for it. Your loved one knows when he/she feels hungry or desires to eat. If you continually offer food, your loved one may eat it only for you.

Your loved one may need permission to eat less: If needed, remind your loved one to eat only what he/she wants. It is not necessary to finish the whole plate.

Supplements: Some supplements don’t smell the best. Cover the supplement with a clear wrap and poke a straw through it to avoid a bad smell.
 

Reminders and Tips

  • Anorexia (lack of appetite) occurs in about 65% of all hospice patients.
  • Rejection of lovingly prepared food is not a rejection of love
  • Do your best to avoid the “eat a little more” urge
  • Remember, if all your loved one wants is a piece of chocolate for breakfast – that’s OK!
  • Try to always remember that the goal of hospice care is to keep your loved one comfortable

For more information

Please call (920) 457-5770 or toll free at (800) 924-4110



"All the darkness in the world cannott extinguish the light of a single candle."

St. Francis of Assisi

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