When eating difficulties arise, feeding tubes are not recommended for older adults with advanced dementia. Careful hand feeding should be offered because hand feeding has been shown to be as good as tube feeding for the outcomes of death, aspiration pneumonia, functional status, and comfort. Moreover, tube feeding is associated with agitation, greater use of physical and chemical restraints, healthcare use due to tube-related complications, and development of new pressure ulcers. Efforts to enhance oral feeding by altering the environment and creating patient-centered approaches to feeding should be part of usual care for older adults with advanced dementia. Tube feeding is a medical therapy that an individual's surrogate decision-maker can decline or accept in accordance with advance directives, previously stated wishes, or what it is thought the individual would want. It is the responsibility of all members of the healthcare team caring for residents in long-term care settings to understand any previously expressed wishes of the individuals (through review of advance directives and with surrogate caregivers) regarding tube feeding and to incorporate these wishes into the care plan. Institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, and other care settings should promote choice, endorse shared and informed decision-making, and honor preferences regarding tube feeding. They should not impose obligations or exert pressure on individuals or providers to institute tube feeding.
Keywords: AGS guidelines; advanced dementia; feeding tubes; position statement.
© 2014, Copyright the Author Journal compilation © 2014, The American Geriatrics Society.