Pat Porterfield, one of Canada’s great hospice palliative care nurses once said that “if 75% of palliative care is about communication, then 75% of the communication is about decreasing intake”.
It was interesting to me to watch my mother’s intake change as she was dying. She had a love for cheese and whipping cream. She was able to enjoy both until the last few weeks.
The family eagerly cooked anything that she liked and catered to any desire for food or flavors. Family talked about her intake fairly often during her last months of life. I wondered how they would respond when she started eating less. I wondered if they would blame her weight loss or her dying on decreased intake. I wondered how I would feel when she started to eat less and became unable to swallow.
I was surprised when we made the adjustment with apparently little stress. Why?
Perhaps because we were so familiar with the great quote: “People do not die because they eat less, they eat less because they are dying”.
Perhaps it was because she was so ready to die, and she prepared us for the fact that she was dying.
Perhaps it was because she seemed so comfortable that we did not feel worried about her.
Or perhaps it was because she died over such a short period of time that we did not have a long time to think about it.
Last month Canada’s Virtual Hospice featured articles on “Food and Fluids at end of life” in their newsletter. Click here to access this excellent resource.
Click here to access my presentation “Food the Four Letter Word in End of Life Care”.