Let the person take their own time

Eating and drinking is a normal part of daily living, in addition to the provision of nourishment, hydration and comfort. It is recognised that the oral intake of both food and fluids can diminish significantly at End of Life, combined with weight loss and muscular weakness.

It is important that time and support are given to relieve any eating-related distress of patients and their families. Research has shown that with cachexia the accompanying symptom of anorexia can cause distress, tension and arguments among patients and their family carers. Family carers often have a desire to promote food for the person’s survival without understanding the futility.

Supporting family members is important for their transition of being able to let go of the felt responsibility to provide food for their loved one who is dying. Through the provision of appropriate information and education family members can be gently brought to an understanding that loss of appetite and desire for food is part of the disease and deterioration process.

The following clip demonstrates how patients with dementia may be supported.