Nursing homes in the UK are making the
insertion of a feeding tube a condition for entry for dementia
sufferers, according to a report from the Royal College of Physicians.
The Guardian says that thousands of people have been treated this way.
The report opposes "nil by mouth" as a
normal response to dementia. Apparently there is no evidence that tube
feeding prolongs the life of patients and it deprives them of the
pleasure and social contact involved of meal times. With time and care,
elderly people with swallowing difficulties can be helped to eat and
"This is a widespread problem. Many care
homes say they will not take a patient until they have had a
gastrostomy," says Dr Rodney Burnham, the chair of the group which
produced the report. "There is no reason for them to do that. They
should have nursing support."
The report (which costs £20)
suggests that nursing homes are using PEG (percutaneous endoscopic
gastrostomy) tubes as a way of cost-cutting. It opposes this solution
to the complex end-of-life needs of dementia sufferers: "Such decisions
should never be based on the convenience of staff or carers. Nor should
artificial feeding ever be required as a criterion for admission to any
institution providing care." ~ Guardian, Jan 6