Nutrition and End-of-Life

By Crystal Fossmeyer MA, RD, CD

Food is such an essential part of our everyday lives from day one. If you think about it, food is likely the most nurturing gift to offer someone sick or going through a tough time. The society we live in emphasizes food and hydration for almost every event in our lives (celebrations, holidays, or even times of mourning). 

It is inevitable as we age, there are notable changes that take place in our bodies. This is especially true when a loved one is terminal and on hospice care. Those at end-of-life are expected to have a decreased acceptance of food and fluids. There is a reduced need for calories due to metabolic changes and a lack of physical activity, a normal reaction as the body prepares for death. If a loved one expresses they no longer wish to take any hydration or food, this could be difficult for the family to accept. Unless the medical team determines it is unsafe to consume anything by mouth, the patient should be allowed to eat whenever or whatever they desire. Forcing food or fluids may cause adverse outcomes as the body can no longer process these properly. 

Hospice care professionals will be able to work with families and caregivers to recognize these signs to help everyone involved through this process. The purpose of Hospice care is to assist caregivers and patients as well as to provide support to navigate through this difficult time. Families may seek help from various sources to better understand eligibility and coverage. Here is one source that could answer further questions:

https://hospicefoundation.org/End-of-Life-Support-and-Resources

About the author:

Crystal is a native, lifelong Hoosier from Indiana (Go IU!) and the mother of two boys. Her background as a Registered Dietitian for the last 25 years has been spent working as a clinician and leader in the home care, hospice, and senior living space. After establishing a successful career in a broad range of healthcare settings, she transitioned into the talent side of the industry to help further the success of organizations by connecting them to top talent in the post acute setting.

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