Feeding and hydration issues

Introduction

‘Feeding is basic to life but it can also be an artificial medical procedure in the power of health professionals. Sometimes it causes dilemmas and strong differences of opinion between patients, relatives and professionals.’
RCP Report of a working party, Oral feeding difficulties and dilemmas. January 2010. Link to RCP report.

  • Decisions about feeding can cause dilemmas and differences of opinions between professionals and families. Everyone understands that receiving nutrition and hydration are essential to life and therefore failure to adequately address and explain the issue can result in lack of feeding being blamed for the person’s deterioration
  • Decisions about feeding often run in parallel with decisions on overall prognosis and therefore may change and risk giving mixed messages if there is poor communication within the team and with the family
  • Discussions need to take account of previous explanations given and attempt to understand the perspectives of the people involved
  • Families and the healthcare team will require practical advice and support to manage oral care and provision of food and fluid at the end of life

Page last reviewed: 17 Apr 2020