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Last Updated on September 10, 2021 by Frank Davis
If you know someone who stops eating or drinking, the first thing you should do is make sure they visit their doctor to check if there are any underlying issues that might cause the change. Don’t force the patient to eat or drink, as that can end up causing even more damage. Giving them a guilt trip won’t help either. It is important to remember that we are trying to encourage them to eat on their own, by stimulating their appetite. Listed below are some helpful tips for handling a situation in which someone stops eating or drinking:
- Get checked by a doctor – The first step you should take is to take them to the doctor to find out if there is an underlying problem such as a urinary tract infection, which is making them unable to eat. Acute infections are among the most common ailments that can affect appetite. If you are being cared for by a hospice agency call them before you go to the hospital.
- Offer Favorite Foods -The smell of one’s favorite food being offered may act as a stimulus for a person’s appetite. It may also be helpful to have finger foods available at the time.
- Offer favorite liquids – Keep your favorite liquid close by and offer frequent sips. Using a straw can give a weak person the ability to help themselves without assistance needed
- Reduce food portions – You can encourage appetite by offering smaller portions of foods, rather than large portions.
- Regular Routine – It is best to offer food whenever they are already accustomed to it.
- Offer soft foods – Foods that are soft can reduce the effort needed to chew and swallow.
- Limit heavy, fried foods
- Review Medications – When taking certain medications, a side effect that may occur is the decrease of the desire to eat. Reviewing medications is helpful in deciding whether or not to substitute one medication for the other. In addition, check to see whether or not they are taking all of their medications on time. Not taking medications can lead to an increase in certain health conditions or pain levels.
- Poor dentition or wearing dentures – Make sure that your patients do not have any difficulty chewing and that the dentures they wear fit them. It is also believed that poor dental health reduces a person’s sense of taste and may lower their appetite as well.
- Ask patient if they have any Pain – Having a poor appetite is a common symptom of chronic pain. In older adults, pain is normally caused by the back or the knees.
- Check eyesight – Good eyesight helps to stimulate appetite and older adults with poor vision are more likely to report poor appetite. If a visual impairment is present make sure the patient has the correct glasses and is referred for further investigation, if necessary.
- Depression – Depression is known to impair appetite. Appetite is strongly influenced by mood. Appetite is normally decreased with the elderly who eat and live alone.
- Oral supplements – In some instances it will not be possible to improve appetite and food intake. Oral nutrition supplements will be needed.
What happens if someone stops eating
As much as it is difficult to accept, if someone you know suddenly stops eating or drinking, they will eventually die. The body requires nourishment in order to continue thriving. For some individuals, it is not so much a matter of refusing food, but rather that they are incapable of eating. A natural part of the dying process is the shutting down of the digestive system.
In the early stages of the dying process, sleep and food consumption decrease. There is a decrease in body demands for energy and therefore the metabolism rate slows down making the patient eat less than before. In the case of forcing the patient to eat or drink when they do not want to may lead to further complications and should not be done.
At the end of life, overeating and overdrinking excessively can lead to some symptoms such as:
- Shortness of Breath
- Gastric Reflux
Is there anything I can do to help
The best course of action if you notice someone has lost their appetite substantially or stopped eating is to keep them as comfortable as possible and to make sure they are not suffering from pain. Here at Hospice Valley we come with a team of medical professionals who include physicians, nurses, therapists, counselors, home health aides, and volunteers. We support the patients physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.
Hospice care is designed to assist patients who are at the end of their lives in managing their pain and symptoms. It is our aim to create a supportive and holistic environment where not only the patients are supported, but also the families are included. During the process of dying, some patients may experience pain, whereas others may not. Fortunately, there are various forms of medication and therapy available to alleviate some of the symptoms. Hospice Valley has a team of experienced professionals who are able to guide you with information about what to expect.
It is common for family members to force food or liquids, as nutrition is seen as a sign of good health. The family members are taught the importance of not pushing the patient to eat or drink. The best approach would be to give them food and liquids only when they request them. In order to prevent the patient from overeating and as a result causing further complications, it is important to pay attention to the patient’s natural signs of hunger.
In Los Angeles, CA and the surrounding areas, Hospice Valley is one of the top-rated and best agencies. With our extensive experience, we can guide you through this difficult process. If you require assistance, please call our office at (818)433-0068.
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