Pros and Cons of Feeding Tubes for the Elderly
The majority of individuals who are in the last stages of their life or are suffering from Alzheimer’s, Dementia, or other illnesses often struggle to eat and drink. They might lose weight, weaken, and get pressure sores. Or, food debris could enter their lungs and result in Pneumonia if they are not properly fed.
Families are then given the choice to use a feeding tube in such situations. One of the hardest choices a family has to make is whether or not to use a feeding tube for their beloved elderly ones. However, you often don’t get the real information needed to make an informed decision.
Some families claim that doctors or other medical staff put pressure on them to use a feeding tube only after a few short briefings and without telling them about the possible risks and stress on the elderly person.
This article will discuss what a feeding tube is, when they are used, different types of feeding tubes, the pros and cons of tube feeding, and the risks of feeding tubes to assist you in making an informed choice.
What Is a Feeding Tube and When It Is Used?
Those who find themselves having trouble chewing and/or swallowing or are physically unable to eat at all can get liquid nutrients through feeding tubes. This can be a hard choice to make, and many medical providers don’t give enough information to help.
A feeding tube may be required for several medical issues, including old age, and it may just be temporary or be required permanently. A person’s ability to eat effectively may be affected by certain brain traumas, oesophageal and neck malignancies, neurological disorders, old age, or other medical issues.
Elderly patients who suffer from severe dementia frequently lose their ability to swallow and develop dysphagia. If someone has been put on a ventilator to help them breathe, they will probably need a feeding tube.
Different Types of Feeding Tube Insertions
There are several types of feeding tubes that are employed for various needs and periods. Each type of feeding tube has a name that often refers to where it enters or exits the body.
Feeding Tube Insertions Without Surgery
A non-surgical feeding tube is a temporary feeding tube that is placed orally through the mouth or nose. The end of the tube can be in the stomach (gastric), duodenum (duodenal), or jejunum (jejunal), depending on where in the body nourishment, fluids, and/or medicines need to be supplied.
One such device is the OG tube, which is placed orally and passes into the stomach. A Nasogastric (NG) tube, on the other hand, is placed via the nasal cavity and into the stomach.
For short-term tube feedings while a patient recovers and develops their capacity to eat safely, non-surgically implanted feeding tubes are often employed. Nasal, pharyngeal, and oesophageal tissues are very sensitive and can be severely irritated or even damaged after prolonged usage of these tubes (more than a few weeks).
Feeding Tubes Inserted Surgically
A percutaneous feeding tube is introduced through an incision in the abdominal wall (ostomy or stoma). Once the patient can eat and drink without assistance, the more visible tubes can be removed. Implants are often placed for long-term or permanent use. A gastrostomy tube (G-tube) could be put into the stomach or small intestine through the skin, just like a nasal or oral tube (also called a J-tube) is put in.
Feeding Tubes for the Elderly
When feeding the elderly without any extra assistance or equipment becomes impossible, tube feeding may be a necessary practice. However, one should be aware of the fundamentals of tube feeding before deciding to utilise it for older patients.
For elderly people who are at risk owing to different illnesses, tube feeding has several benefits. However, there are significant dangers connected to the use of feeding tubes. This article will tell you more about the pros and cons of feeding tubes so that you can make a choice that is best for your older ones.
Advantages of Feeding Tubes
- An effective method for elderly adults with chronic diseases who are unable to eat without help from a caregiver or on their own.
- If the tube is no longer needed, a doctor can usually take it out in less than a minute.
- Using feeding tubes, elderly people are routinely treated for gas, bloating, vomiting, and nausea.
- In addition to helping with digestion, the main goal of a feeding tube is often to keep food or liquids from going into the lungs, which can cause aspiration pneumonia.
Disadvantages of Feeding Tubes
- Misplacement of feeding tubes in the trachea can result in pneumonia, discomfort, and suffocation.
- If a feeding tube becomes obstructed, dislodged, or damaged, it can lead to serious complications such as stomach, oesophageal, sinus, and throat infections and ulcers.
- These tubes have been linked to stomach, oesophagal, and nasal airway erosions and abrasions, some of which might result in bleeding.
- When patients are in pain, they may desire to pull the tube out, necessitating restraint.
Elderly People With Advanced Dementia and Feeding Tubes
A broad loss of memory, language, and cognitive skills that is severe enough to interfere with day-to-day activities is known as dementia. Those with dementia may benefit from tube feeding. It might not always be the best option, especially for those with severe dementia. When a loved one is unable to make a decision, it can be challenging for families to reach a decision. Thus, feeding tubes can help individuals with advanced dementia, and one has to analyse the pros and cons of feeding tubes before opting for them.
Considerations While Using Feeding Tubes
Before you decide to give your loved one a feeding tube, there are a few things to think about:
- If a feeding tube is risky, the patient can be fed by mouth with little amounts of food and liquid. Though they may not be consuming enough calories to sustain or increase their weight, it is important to remember that they do not experience hunger in the same way that healthy people do.
- The patient’s discomfort and breathing may be managed with the use of comfort measures.
- Different types of feeding tubes exist for different needs. For instance, enteral feeding tubes may be full (offering all the nutrients patients require) or partial (providing only a portion of the nutrients required to maintain their health). Consult your doctor and pick the one they think is best for the elderly.
- Never use feeding tubes to ease the process of providing elderly care. It should only be used if manual feeding is not at all possible.
The Choice of Inserting a Feeding Tube
There’s no denying the importance of feeding tubes of all shapes and sizes, especially for patients with terminal illnesses. Patients who are unable or unwilling to eat should be evaluated on an individual basis, as tube feeding is not effective for everyone in this situation. This is a major worry about the end of life for many seniors and their loved ones. Families need to talk about and write down their wishes for end-of-life care as soon as possible to avoid any confusion and ensure that everyone’s wishes are respected. Ultimately, one may find it challenging to decide whether to select tube feeding for themselves or to advocate for another person.
Medical professionals and families should invest the time and energy necessary to carefully weigh the advantages and disadvantages of feeding tubes, as well as any available alternatives. You will need to work closely with a loved one’s medical team if you want to fully understand the complicated ethical rules and medical options that are available to them.
Humans are meant to provide food to one another as a medium of affection, safety, and nutrition. This tendency is so ingrained that when presented with such a crucial choice, it causes many people to hesitate. This is why it’s beneficial to seek the advice of your hospice care team so that you may make a clinical choice based on information rather than feelings.
For reliable and expert home health care services, you can resort to Lana Life Care. We provide competent guidance and care for your loved ones at the appropriate time. Lana Life Care provides trustworthy home health care services, including peg tube feeding, home physiotherapy, IV therapy, and injection services, among others.