The decision to allow the insertion of a feeding tube is one of the toughest decisions that families of elderly nursing home residents have to face. Seniors with advanced dementia eventually develop problems eating and swallowing as their disease progresses, and they are unable to speak for themselves. Family members are left struggling with the emotional and controversial decision to allow tube feeding in order to meet the needs of their loved ones.
A recent New York Times report could make this decision even more difficult. Tube feeding is an invasive procedure with serious risks, but there is no evidence that the procedure improves survival rates or prolongs patients' quality of life. Nevertheless, about a third of elderly nursing home residents with advanced dementia receive feeding tubes based largely on misguided decisions.
Basic time and care can help seniors who have difficulty eating and drinking, and artificial nutrition should only be used as a last resort. But time is a convenience that many nursing homes do not have, and some go so far as to require that elderly patients be fitted with a tube in order to be admitted. This is a disturbing trend that does not afford seniors the respect that they deserve in their final chapter of life. Even when physicians ask for permission to insert a feeding tube, many family members say they feel pressured to agree, or they are not fully informed of the risks involved. These risks include infection, nausea, vomiting, and the possibility that the patient may rip out the tube in distress.
Chicago nursing home attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm remain committed to the belief that a nursing home patient's dignity and quality of life must be respected at all times, and family members should be fully informed and involved in difficult decisions that affect their loved ones. Convenience should never be substituted for quality care.