As difficult as it often is, this natural progression needs to be respected and accepted by the family and caregivers as the patient moves one step closer to leaving this world. This is often the most difficult thing for family members to accept. Rest assured, however, that your loved one is not suffering from lack of food. It is natural for the body to save its energy for more important needs at the end of life.
*Ask the patient for his/her needs and desires concerning eating and drinking. Provide choices while he or she is still able to swallow food and liquids. HOWEVER, DO NOT FORCE FEED. This will only cause chocking or other discomfort for your loved one!
*Avoid strong smelling foods, such as cauliflower, cabbage, etc. Mild, bland foods prepared without strong spices may be better tolerated by the patient.
*Often liquids are tolerated better than solids.
*Keep your patient’s mouth moist with sips of cool water through a straw, or give tiny
*Lips should be kept moist for comfort by applying a non-petroleum based lubricant, such as K-Y Jelly, every few hours. If oxygen is NOT being administered, then Vaseline can be applied. If oxygen is being used then Vaseline should not be applied because it can cause complications if it gets into the lungs. Again, use a non-petroleum based lubricant if your patient is on oxygen.
*It is natural for the body to know which systems to slow down and stop in order to reserve the energy it needs to keep breathing and to maintain the circulatory and cardiac system. Death is a natural occurrence. It is not a medical event. If we simply follow what the patient’s body instinctively knows and not try to go against the “tide,” the death of the patient’s body will wind down in its own natural way.