Elders and Feeding Tube Complications2017-04-18T18:01:20+00:00

When a person is no longer able to chew and swallow food, they need to get food another way. One such alternative to traditional eating is the use of a feeding tube. These tubes can be helpful, especially for elderly nursing home residents. But, they can also become dangerous if not properly monitored. If your loved one uses a feeding tube, you should understand potential complications.

What is a Feeding Tube?

A feeding tube is a device used to give patients nutrition and sustenance. These tubes feed those who can’t feed themselves. The use of a feeding tube is referred to as enteral feeding, gavage, or tube feeding. The use of a feeding tube can be short term while a resident recovers from an illness or complication. Or, it can be long term if the resident cannot regain the ability to chew and swallow.

Traditionally, these tubes go through the nostrils or straight into the abdomen. They get the patient the supplemental food that they need. A few common types of feeding tubes include:

  • The nasojejunal tube (placed into the stomach).
  • The jejunal tube, inserted into the abdomen.
  • The nasogastric tube. This is placed through the nostrils, through the esophagus, and into the stomach.
  • The gastric tube (inserted into the stomach).

Reasons to Use a Feeding Tube

Feeding tubes get used when complex conditions prevent a person from eating on their own. A few common reasons to use this tube are:

  • Digestive disorders.
  • Certain types of cancer.
  • Malnutrition
  • Failure to swallow.
  • Neurologic disorders.
  • Neuromuscular disorders.

Feeding Tube Complications

Feeding tubes can be helpful for those that cannot eat on their own. But, they can also present devastating consequences if not monitored correctly. Some staff members may recommend the use of a feeding tube for your loved one to make their jobs easier. It is much easier to put in a feeding tube than assist a resident during every meal. But, keep in mind that this tube should only get used as a last resort. If a nursing home resident is able to get their nutrition by eating, a feeding tube should not be used. Be sure to talk to a doctor before making the decision to place your loved one on a feeding tube.

Complications with these tubes can arise. Common complications include:

  • Dehydration.
  • Vomiting.
  • Constipation.
  • Nausea.
  • Clogged feeding tubes, which can restrict liquid and food intake and cause serious problems.
  • Infection.

Some of these issues can be easily fixed. Others will cause serious complications, especially for elderly people. This is because they have a weakened immune system and less muscle mass than other people.

Feeding Tube Upkeep

If your loved one uses this tube, make sure that your loved one is properly supervised and treated. A staff member should check and clean the feeding tube daily to make sure that no complications arise. If there is an issue, proper supervision will ensure that the issue is found and fixed as soon as possible.

A feeding tube complication may be the result of neglect or abuse on the part of the nursing home staff. If you suspect neglect or abuse, you should seek professional help immediately. Consider getting your loved one out of the nursing home. Or, you can make sure that a different, more qualified staff member is in charge of taking care of your loved one. You can also contact a doctor to determine how to help your loved one. If you feel that it is necessary, you may press criminal or civil charges against the nursing home. You can try to prove that your loved one’s injuries resulted from negligence. For more information and help, please contact our office here.