In nursing homes throughout the country, some 35 percent of patients with advanced cognitive impairment are fed with feeding tubes.
However, our Sebastian nursing home negligence lawyers know there are often little proven benefit. In fact, the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and the American Geriatrics Society recommend against feeding tubes for people who have advanced dementia.
Nursing home administrators and caregivers have known about the dangers of feeding tubes for at least the last 15 years, yet many continue to use them. A major problem with the devices, according to a geriatrician from the University of California, quoted recently in The New York Times, is that they don’t prevent aspiration pneumonia. Additionally, they do nothing to prolong the life of the dementia patient. In fact, they may actually serve to shorten it, as they are associated with:
–Exacerbation of bed sores;
–Cause major distress;
–People who try to pull them out often end up being in restraints.
With dementia patients, many geriatric researchers instead recommend careful hand feeding. But this takes time, and sometimes it’s easier for doctors to simply have them inserted anyway.
For family members, it can be incredibly difficult to refuse a feeding tube to a loved one, especially when a doctor is recommending it. Some believe that this means they are condemning their loved one to starvation. But surgically-implanted feeding tubes have not actually been shown to do anything to improve their survival rates or improve quality of life.
The majority of dementia patients will have some type of swallowing or eating problems as their disease worsens. Feeding tubes don’t do much to improve this.
A recent study published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that in about 15 percent of cases, feeding tubes were inserted by doctors without family consent at all. Of those who were consulted, another 13 percent said they felt pressured by the physician to have the feeding tube inserted. Nearly half said that the discussion about the feeding tube took less than 15 minutes. More than 33 percent said that during the discussion, the doctor never mentioned the potential risks.
That study also found that nearly half of family members whose whose loved one had a feeding tube reported seeing their loved one in distress. Even though the average age of the patients in this study was 88 years, medical staff responded to this distress by either tying the patient down or injecting them with powerful drugs to sedate them.
In addition to bedsores, feeding tubes have also been associated with nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
Twenty-five percent of family members said they regretted consenting to have the feeding tube inserted.
Call Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.
For the Elderly, Medical Procedures to Avoid, Feb. 28, 2013, By Paula span, The New York Times
When Demented Patients Receive Feeding Tubes, May 9, 2011, By Paula Span, The New York Times
More Blog Entries:
Florida Medicare Fraud Investigation Cuts Harm Nursing Home Residents, Feb. 1, 2013, Sebastian Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog