Help with Eating / Feeding

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Q: I feel guilty not being able to get my father to eat. What should I do?

Families often have questions about eating and appetite when someone is ill. For families, the issue of food and eating involves much more than just the food. The whole experience of eating and fellowship is important. Also, feeding is seen as part of providing basic care for someone. Yet people who are terminally ill usually lose their appetite and don’t feel hungry.

It’s hard to resist trying to care for your father by helping him eat. If, like many people in advanced stages of illness, he doesn’t have an appetite, then it may be more valuable for you to care for him in other ways. This may include reading to your dad, helping keep his mouth moist, massaging his feet, or doing something with him that he enjoys.

Q: Is it painful when a person isn’t eating or drinking any more?

While pain is a common symptom at the end of life, it isn’t caused by lack of food or fluids.

People with a terminal illness don’t have a problem with "hunger pains." Commonly they lose their appetite, their sense of hunger, and all interest in food. This can result from nausea, physical discomfort from eating even small amounts of food, and the overall effect of the illness.

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