I’ve seen a significant number of cases where an Alzheimer’s patient gets admitted to a nursing home or assisted living facility only to have their health rapidly decline within a brief period. In several cases, I’ve seen patients deteriorate so significantly that within a few weeks of their admission they needed to be rushed to a hospital due to rapid weight-loss and dehydration.
The event likely leads to a hospitals request that a feeding tube be surgically implanted in patient to provide life sustaining nutrients. Unfortunately, further complications typically arise with the use of the feeding tube adding further problems to a typically messy situation.
A recent New York Times article, “Feeding Dementia Patients With Dignity” reinforced the obvious, feeding patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s is difficult and time consuming. Moreover, the alternative in installing a feeding tube can lead to anger in the patient and negatively impacts the patients quality of life.
I highly recommend that all family and caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients check out this article authored by Roni Caryn Rabin that chronicles some of the problems encountered by the more than 5 million people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and specifically– feeding.
If there’s one message I was left with after reading the article, it is that Alzheimer’s patients require a great deal of patience during mealtimes in order for them to really flourish. Ms. Rabin’s article describes how a husband spends more than 45 minutes feeding his wife at every meal in order for her to to physically get enough food without physically or emotionally stressing her.
Certainly, nursing homes and assisted living facilities need to be mindful of the patients nutritional needs and provide the staffing levels for all patients to live with the highest feasible quality of life.