From Close

Eating and drinking – part 1

Offering your loved one food and drink as they near death is still important, even though they will eat and drink less and less. This guide explains why it’s still important, and how to prepare for your loved one’s appetite declining – emotionally and practically. This guide is in two parts so don’t miss part two once you’ve finished here.

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Why is offering your loved one food and drink still important?

Generally speaking, your loved one’s appetite for food and drink will decline and you will notice that they eat less and drink less. This is normal but your understanding of what is happening to them will affect how you feel at first, and how you will continue to feel as your loved one approaches death.

At this stage of their illness, your loved one’s bodily functions will be steadily slowing down and they will need food and drink less; you may have noticed this slowing down already. But our instincts and habits mean that the smell, sight and taste of food and drink remain a pleasure, so providing it effectively is an act of not only kindness or compassion but also one of affection. You love them, so seeing them enjoy their favourite food is fulfilling.

Be prepared for surprises as it is not uncommon even in someone’s last few days of life to suddenly ask for whatever it is they fancy! Chances are, they will take just a bite or two or not even attempt to eat it once you have gone to the effort of getting it. Although that might feel frustrating and disappointing please don’t be dismayed, your loved one will not starve to death or die of dehydration.

There will be no definite pattern to appetite or thirst, so please forget scheduled mealtimes and “it’s time for your mid-morning cuppa”. “As and when” your loved one needs is the order of the day but at night this may be outweighed by your need to catch up on sleep. You don’t need to nag them to eat or drink every couple of hours.