I have already written about the decision to insert a feeding tube in Mother on a previous post. At this point I would like to go into more detail about the decision.
Mother’s dementia had advanced to the point that she was unable to swallow. She would try to eat, but the food was aspirating into her lungs, and she was in serious danger of getting aspiration pneumonia. We were told that if she continued eating that within three months she would have pneumonia and die.
One of my sisters was adamantly in favor of the feeding tube. After all, Mother was still conscious. She knew us, even though most of the time she didn’t know where she was. She could smile at something funny and cry when she was sad. Her ability to speak was reduced to words, not sentences. If she wanted to tell us a story, she couldn’t. However, she did have a few good moments here and there, when we came to see her, and when children came to see her. She always smiled at them.
I was not in favor of the feeding tube. I knew that she was ready to die. She had told us so. In spite of her sweet spirit and ready smile, she hated her life in the nursing home and she was ready to go to heaven. She no longer had the strength to sit up or even to make herself comfortable in her recliner. She had to wait sometimes a long time in pain from sitting in one position for a long period of time. She could no longer hold her head up and had to have pillows under her neck to be comfortable. If she became uncomfortable, she had to wait until a CNA came by to check on her before she got any relief from her pain. I could go on, but you get the idea. She was not happy. The last thing I wanted for her and the last thing I know she would want was to lie in a bed and waste away.
Still, as Darla said, it was hard to deny her the feeding tube and just let her die when she could smile and she could recognize us. Oh, such a hard decision to make. Darla was the swing vote and so I was ‘out voted’.
If I remember correctly, the feeding tube was inserted in November or December, 2004. She passed away in April, 2005.
By the way. I was astounded when I learned that most of the time, feeding tubes are inserted into patients and they are returned to the nursing home the next day! I could go on and on about that as well, but I’ll save that for another post.
Next post, removing the feeding tube