Feeding tubes in patients with severe dementia.Am Fam Physician. 2002 Apr 15; 65(8):1605-10, 1515.AF
Patients with advanced dementia are among the most challenging patients to care for because they are often bedridden and dependent in all activities of daily living. Difficulty with eating is especially prominent and distresses family members and health care professionals. Health care professionals commonly rely on feeding tubes to supply nutrition to these severely demented patients. However, various studies have not shown use of feeding tubes to be effective in preventing malnutrition. Furthermore, they have not been demonstrated to prevent the occurrence or increase the healing of pressure sores, prevent aspiration pneumonia, provide comfort, improve functional status, or extend life. High complication rates, increased use of restraints, and other adverse effects further increase the burden of feeding tubes in severely demented patients. Feeding tubes should be avoided in many situations in which they are currently used. The preferable alternative to tube feeding is hand feeding. Though it may not be effective in preventing malnutrition and dehydration, hand feeding allows the maintenance of patient comfort and intimate patient care.