“When I arrived here, staff filled in a form with my daughter’s help. They have followed it ever since. Meals follow a routine I could set my clock to. No freshly baked bread now, just that thin sliced stuff. I’m sure it’s good for you but it’s just not the same. I will get lukewarm tea in a minute so I can drink it fast and they can get me into bed. My daughter said I liked black tea when they filled in that form, but after drinking it warm from a plastic mug I would love a hot black coffee in a proper cup.” – [Patient in Hospice]

Establish likes and dislikes

Take time to understand your patients likes and dislikes when it comes to food and drink. And regularly check with them and those around them to confirm that their preference hasn’t changed.


Work together to provide food and drink when desired by the person.

The slowing down of eating and drinking is natural to the dying process, so is the ‘fighting’ against it. Food can cause more discomfort than pleasure, so everyone needs to work together to ensure the needs of the patient are met.

We can help families understand what is happening around them and what may happen to their loved one as they die. Therefore an essential part of compassionate care is communicating with the patient and those closest to them. This way it can help them understand the loss of capacity to eat and drink as part of the dying process.

Also a patient may feel they have to eat and drink to make those close to them feel better, causing them to feel stressed and discomfort.

Decisions about nutrition and hydration measures should be made with the support of the multi-disciplinary team in partnership with the person and those close to them, where possible. The following are questions which can be considered in this decision making process:

Are the patient’s wishes known?

  • How will artificial hydration and/or nutrition benefit the patient?
  • Is eating and drinking normally causing the patient discomfort?
  • Is the patient keen or able to continue eating and drinking?
  • Have the risks and discomforts linked with artificial nutrition and hydration been considered?