What To Do When A Hospice Patient Stops Drinking or Eating

Very few things are more difficult than watching a family member slip away due to a life-limiting illness. This experience is even more of a challenge when caregivers and family members observe that their hospice patient stops drinking and eating at the end of life.


Loved ones might worry:

  • What can we do to ensure that our family member doesn’t suffer?
  • Will withholding water and food at the end of life cause discomfort for our family member?
  • Our family traditions usually revolve around drink and food as signs of loving care. Are we taking away that love if we take away hydration and nutrition? Are we allowing our family member to starve to death?
  • What’s our family member’s chance of survival without food or water in hospice care? How long will a hospice patient go on without water and food?
  • Are we actually giving up on our family member if we do not attempt to feed them or provide fluids/water?


Be Guided by Body’s Slow Decline

A dying person’s needs for water and food are much different from the ones of an active, healthy individual. As the end of life grows nearer, the body slowly loses its capability of digesting and processing liquids and foods. As bodily functions and organs shut down, minimal quantities of hydration/liquids or nutrition may be necessary, if at all.


Continuously offering water and food, or choosing artificial hydration or nutrition—like nasal or stomach feeding tubes or intravenous fluids for hydration—actually can complicate the process of dying and cause other health issues.

Saad Healthcare always works with families and patients to develop personalized care plans which support a patient’s values and wishes, and these plans involve a discussion regarding the role of artificial hydration and nutrition.

For more information on hospice care please feel free to get in touch with Saad Healthcare in Mobile, AL at (251) 343-9600.

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