Last Modified: December 12, 2013
The seriously ill patient loses interest in eating and often does not have the energy to eat. The disease process affects a person's desire to eat, as well as the ability to digest foods. It is not unusual for a patient's taste to change from one moment to the next. He/she may ask for a specific food and then refuse to eat it when the food is served.
Although this is normal, it can be very difficult for the caregiver. Remember that the patient is responding to many factors, which result in a loss of interest in eating. Remember that the patient may eat much less than they had before becoming ill.
Things you can do to encourage eating:
In the last few weeks and days of life, it is normal for the patient to refuse to eat. Usually dying patients do not feel hungry or thirsty; they are not starving. Nature is at work helping them to die in a more comfortable way. Small ice chips, frozen juices or popsicles may be refreshing to a dry mouth. The hospice nurse will give you special swabs to help moisten the patient's mouth. Although the caregiver may feel the patient is not drinking enough fluids, this is actually nature at work.
Decreased fluid intake brings relief from:
The loss of desire and the patient's refusal to eat are signals that the person is responding to the disease process as the body begins to shut down normal function. Although difficult, the caregiver should respect these signals. The hospice staff is always available to discuss these changes and to help you cope with the dying process of a loved one.