My father has late-stages Alzheimer’s and gets food pocketed in his throat, causing aspiration and food back-up. Does he need to get a feeding tube? | Chicago Elder Law Attorney Anthony B. Ferraro

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.