When your loved one approaches the end of life, their appetite may decrease or even disappear. Caregivers, as well as friends and family members, often find this difficult to understand and accept. You may worry that your loved one isn’t eating enough or needs to eat more to keep their strength up. But end-of-life eating habits and nutritional needs change, and loss of appetite is normal. Here’s what you need to know:
In the days and even weeks before death, the body slowly shuts down. During this time your loved one will gradually lose interest in food.
This is not starvation. Starvation happens when a healthy person does not get enough food and they experience intense hunger. When someone is dying, the body can no longer absorb or make use of food. Feelings of hunger and thirst go away. Your loved one will eat less, and may develop a preference for softer foods and liquids before the appetite disappears.
There is clear medical evidence that during the last phase of a terminal illness, dehydration can bring comfort. Vomiting may stop and pain from tumors may lessen. Coughing, congestion, and mucus in the lungs may also decrease.
People who stop eating and drinking will eventually fall into a deep sleep and usually die in one to three weeks.
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