When a loved one is dying, you naturally want to do anything that might ease his/her last days, if at all possible. Pleasure feeding is one way to give comfort—and even joy—at this stage. It can also help ease your own distress. Here’s how to do it.

Someone who is dying no longer needs food or water, which can be hard for families to understand and accept. At some point, even the healthiest foods won’t help your loved one live longer, and actually can make him more uncomfortable by causing bloating or nausea.

Pleasure feeding, on the other hand, is a way to allow a dying person to still experience the taste and feel of a favorite food or drink…in very small amounts. It’s something that can be done for anyone who is conscious, even someone whose swallowing is impaired. In fact, one patient with a feeding tube and chest tube was still able to swallow coffee with cream and sugar, soda and melted orange sherbet. Not only did it make the patient happier, his family also was delighted at his pleasure.

HOW TO PLEASURE FEED

Use these guidelines when providing pleasure feeding to your loved one…

Let your loved one choose. Pleasure feeding should be done only on request, and the patient should choose the food and amount.

Honor the choice even if it is not “healthy.” When a dying person isn’t eating much, concerns about high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, etc. are immaterial. Coffee, cookies, ice cream—even beer—are appropriate for pleasure feeding.

Raise the head of the bed. The safest way to offer pleasure feeding is when your loved one is upright to reduce the risk of choking.

Stick with small bites and sips. Small amounts given slowly are sufficiently satisfying and, again, reduce the risk of choking.

Don’t force. Even with a food that was always enjoyed, don’t try to force your loved one to eat. It’s natural for people who are dying to eat and drink much less.

Important: Don’t try to offer food and/or liquids to someone who is unable to swallow or who is unconscious.

OTHER WAYS TO COMFORT

If your loved one can’t or doesn’t want food, offering ice chips or small sips of cold water helps relieve a dry mouth—and that, too, is comforting. Here are other ways to ease a dying loved one…

  • Moisten his mouth with a damp cloth or swab.
  • Apply lip balm.
  • Gently rub lotion on dry skin.
  • Play his favorite music.
  • Read a book.
  • Pray.
  • Talk about favorite memories.