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Nutritional Info for Hospice Families
General Information:
Nutrition is an important part of our lives from the time we take our first breath as an infant. Our culture places great importance on meal planning, calorie counts, and social interaction during meal times. Often feeding and preparing meals for a loved one is a way of communicating love, concern, and caring in a direct and non verbal way.
Whenever one is ill, his/her appetite decreases whether the illness is the flu, an injured ankle, or a cancer-related process. The body’s need for high-calorie and protein
foods are altered because of decreased activity, exercise, and general metabolic rate. Nutritional foods are important for adequate healing of any injured part.
Hospice patients frequently experience decreased appetite, nausea, vomiting, pain
and constipation. The most common problems many families face are finding the right kinds of foods and difficulty in getting the patient to eat. Too often this “food struggle” may develop tension that may interfere with patient/family communications. The Hospice staff believes that this struggle may be avoided by allowing the patient to eat what and when he/she wants. When faced with a terminal illness, an individual begins adjusting the priorities of his/her life and may desire to expand energy on activity and relationships rather than on food. The body is much wiser than we give credit for and will give us messages about what we need to do to sustain life. The terminally ill person is facing the end of his/her life and the sustaining value of food is often not important. Many times the disease process affects taste buds and makes foods taste bland, salty, or sour.
Food Suggestions and Helpful Hints:
→ Offer small, frequent meals throughout the day rather than maintaining a three- meal-a-day routine. Three to five meals a day of light foods are tolerable more easily.
→ Serve small portions on the plate so the patient does not feel overwhelmed or a sense of failure because he/she cannot clean his/her plate.
→ Alter the times of meals to when the patient is pain-free and has most energy, i.e., mornings, mid-afternoons, and after pain medications.
→ Blenderize family meals for patients who have difficulty swallowing.
→ Don’t force food at any time. This can develop into a struggle in which the family
may feel rejected and the patient feels ungrateful or guilty.
→ Liquid meals are often best when the patient is nauseated or in pain, for example, soups, shakes, yogurt, ice cream, cool drinks, etc.
→ Ice chips, flavored and unflavored, relieve the feeling of dryness and discomfort when the patient no longer wants to eat or drink.
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