This can be a tricky subject. There is a lot of negative information circulated about feeding tubes, but they also can serve a legitimate, helpful purpose. First off, if your father has an advance directive, review its contents for guidance about his wishes regarding a feeding tube.
Be sure to speak at length with his doctor about this issue. Sometimes other interventions are possible, such as speech therapy. Speech pathologists and therapists can introduce special swallowing techniques. However, the patient must be aware enough to understand instructions and carry them out.
Discuss the different kinds of feeding tubes with your loved one’s doctor. There are numerous types and each should be explored. Some of them require more invasive procedures than others. Less invasive means less stress for your father. The doctor also should be able to explain the risks of using a feeding tube — and what the risks are if one isn’t used.
Don’t hesitate to get a second opinion about feeding tubes. They are frequently an uncomfortable topic. Even if you have used a doctor for many years and trust him or her, it never hurts to get a second opinion. You need to be at peace when you make a decision about a feeding tube.
You better go talk to the physician involved before you assert yourself here. Also, discuss this with the speech therapist to find out what type of therapy work your mother is undertaking. The therapist should have her individualized care plan available to discuss. It should include a goal and various steps for meeting it.
Speech therapy does a lot more than most people realize. It is not just about talking more clearly. Some of the most important work may have to do with swallowing issues, which can be quite dangerous if not addressed appropriately. As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, for example, swallowing becomes more difficult, sometimes to the point of being life-threatening. Choking is a big concern.
Speech therapists can assess such situations and apply therapies as needed. Rather than just having a person form sounds and letters, speech therapists also conduct swallowing tests on people with dementia — sometimes with the use of X-rays. These can help form care plans. It is easy to see why an Alzheimer’s patient might not understand all of this.
You probably will want your mother’s doctor to explain the seriousness of the situation to her, and why the speech therapy is needed. Then, if your mother complains in the future, you can rely on the authority of the doctor. You also will both be more knowledgeable and familiar with the reasons for speech therapy. For more information from the Alzheimer’s Resource Kit, click