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Should I approve a feeding tube for my loved one?

Imagine your mother or father suffered a catastrophic stroke and you're the designated health care power of attorney. Depending on the severity of your loved one's health condition, he or she could be incapacitated and unable to make decisions for him- or herself. As the health care "attorney in fact" or health care "proxy," you'll need to be the one to speak with doctors to ensure doctors give the kind of care your loved one would want.

In these circumstances, your loved one's doctor may suggest the use of a feeding tube. Should you approve? This article will help you consider your options.

Issues to think about when deciding to use a feeding tube

Your loved one's doctor will no doubt tell you important information using a feeding tube in general and as it applies to your mother or father. It's important to listen to your doctor's recommendations and explanations carefully to make the best decision possible.

Doctors employ the use of a feeding tube in cases where a patient refuses to eat or cannot eat while recovering from a serious medical condition. A feeding tube can be an excellent way to get your loved one the nutrition his or her body needs to get better.

However, a feeding tube can be very uncomfortable. If your loved one is incapacitated and coming to the end of his or her life, a feeding tube may not be able to save him or her. It could merely result in more discomfort and a lower quality of life during his or her final days. As for patients suffering from dementia, the feeding tube will not prevent aspiration or prolong the person's life.

Your loved one's loss of appetite may simply be a symptom of him or her starting to pass away. Different bodily systems will start to come to rest, and food and water are not needed in the same way anymore. In fact, many experts are of the opinion that in an individual's final days, even when food is introduced by a feeding tube the body will no longer absorb or use the nutrients provided.

Feeding tubes: Not an easy decision to make

The decision to use a feeding tube often boils down to the answer to the following question: Will the feeding tube help my loved one recover in this instance, or will it merely make his or her final days more uncomfortable? This is not an easy elder care decision to make, but when an individual has chosen his or her health care "attorney in fact" wisely, the "attorney in fact" will make the best decision given the circumstances.

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