Nutrition in Hospice Centers

Nutrition in Hospice Centers

Hospice centers are places where people who suffer from fatal illnesses and conditions can find the care that they need before their appointed time of death comes. Telemedicine can be useful at this point. At such centers a person gets the care they need from treatment to alleviate pain and discomfort to the food they eat. The diet is one of the most important aspects of this care. At this stage in life the dietary needs and preferences are different. Here we look at all the aspects of nutrition in hospice centers and how caregivers can help make the patient feed better.

Lack of appetite

This is common in almost all palliative patients. The body is in the process of preparing itself for death (especially during the final stages) and lack of appetite and thirst is among these preparations. Most patients will have reduced appetite and a subsequent reduction in the food they eat while some will have no appetite at all and refuse to eat. Others will request for one thing and when it is brought they refuse to eat it and request for something else. All these are normal occurrences among these people.

Understanding why the patient is losing appetite is very important in providing nutritional care. Some of the reasons include physiological reasons like nausea and pain while others are psychological like depression and stress. Either way, these need to be handled in order to help the person.

Body nutritional requirements

The nutritional needs of the person in the hospice center are not the same as that of a healthy person. A palliative patient needs less than usual to survive. The body is sort of in the process of ‘shutting down’ and the nutritional requirements are reduced. Giving these people too much food than is necessary can cause problems which could even hasten their death.

Avoid overfeeding people in hospice centers and they will be much better off.

Consider what the patient wants to eat

When giving food, ask the patient what he or she wants to eat. Give them that as it will increase the chances of them eating enough. Remember that these are the last days of their lives and they need to live them to the fullest. Favorite foods are a great way to help them accept their fate.

Talk to them about the food and much more. Do not force them to eat or drink more than they are willing to. You can talk to them and convince them why they need to eat but never force. This could lead to dire consequences.

Feeding frequency

We are used to the traditional, three meals a day but in hospice centers this approach should not be taken. It is better to offer small frequent meals instead of three large ones. 

What food to serve

Other than giving the patient his/her favorite food, it is important to still meet their nutritional requirements with foods that are easy to digest. Some great options are ice cream, yogurt, pudding, custard and other foods that are high in calories. Greasy foods and those that are spicy should be avoided.

Food should be served at room temperature or cold so its smell remains less pungent which encourages eating.

Encourage eating

There are several methods that you can use to encourage patients in hospice centers to eat. The first is to serve the food in an appetizing manner. Use colorful plates and garnish the food.

When you serve the food, do not leave the patient to eat alone. If he or she can come to the table, sit down and have the meal with them. If you have to take the food to their bed, sit by their bedside and eat with them as well. It is a psychological process in which people tend to eat more when in company.

The use of supplements may help boost appetite and help the patients eat better. Some patients may, however, refuse to take the supplements. Be understanding and do not force them.

Care Beyond Nutrition

Other than healthy food to sustain the body, patients in hospice centers need love and care. You can assign your patient an online doctor. Whether it is feeding time or not, pay attention to each and everything the patient says. Be ready to listen and act. Be considerate with what you say and show them that you care with your actions. Even if the patient refuses to eat what you prepare, do not show your disappointment openly as this may make them feel guilty. Remain jovial so they can be happy as well and enjoy their last days on the world.