QUESTION: If a family member suffers a stroke what is the right decision about whether to use a feeding tube?
I think it depends on what a person’s mind and body are like after the stroke. How severe is the damage? What is the potential for rehabilitation? Quality of living is what would influence my decision about whether to have a feeding tube.
If I had a stroke and some of my body functions were impaired, but I could think, communicate, read, understand, laugh, get out of bed, and leave the house, but I had difficulty swallowing to the point of choking, I would probably choose a feeding tube.
If I couldn't do any of those things, required someone to address my bodily functions for me, had to leave my home and be cared for in a facility, couldn’t get out of bed, and most of all did not have my mental alertness and awareness, then no feeding tube for me.
The bottom line in making feeding tube decisions is quality of life. What kind of living is the nourishment going to sustain? Are we putting the person through the discomfort of creating an artificial hole in their stomach, to then develop a routine for having liquid nourishment flowing into that stomach, just so the physical body will continue breathing? Or are we providing nourishment so the person can ENJOY the life the food is providing?
Too often we are offered life sustaining options without considering what kind of life we are sustaining. Just because we can do a medical procedure does not mean it is necessarily in our best interest to have it done. This applies to many medical options that are offered today.
Something more about Making Decisions...
Do you have a loved one in the dying process? Does your loved one have an advance directive? If not, encourage them to set it up. It will ease your mind to know their wishes when it comes to such things as feeding tubes and other medical interventions during this challenging time.