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Sensitive decisions in nutrition and hydration

Your role as the nurse in managing the expectations of patients and relatives is vital in order that misunderstandings don’t occur. Eating and drinking is essential to wellbeing and life and for many people is an important part of their family and social life.

There are times when it may be deemed inappropriate or unsafe to continue to provide food and drink to people, particularly in the last days of life. This does not mean ceasing all nutrition and hydration but it may be necessary to provide it in different ways. Discussing openly with the person and those who are caring for them the options, the reasons for the decision and what they can expect needs to be done sensitively with opportunities to ask questions and provide information.

  • Withdrawal of nutrition and hydration
  • Advanced decisions to refuse treatment - See: advance care planning
  • Risk feeding
  • Thickened fluids
  • Enforced feeding - See: MARSIPAN guidelines
  • Denial of access to food and water (safeguarding)
  • Patient refusal
  • Cultural and religious
  • Alternative forms of nutrition and hydration – Intravenous or enteral feeding

Page last updated - 23/10/2018