In the last days and hours of life you will usually not feel hungry or thirsty as your body no longer needs water and the energy that food provides.
The gut stops working properly so that any food eaten can stay in the stomach for a long time and not be digested.
This can be a very difficult time for carers as they have probably spent a lot of time preparing and cooking tempting food and encouraging you to eat to keep your strength up during your illness. It can be hard to accept that food is no longer required or that the amount of food eaten is very small.
For carers, it is important that they continue to eat and drink normally because they do need to keep their strength up – they mustn’t feel guilty about eating when you can’t.
It’s OK to eat if you feel like it but try not to worry if you don’t. It’s usually OK to eat what you fancy – this is not a time to worry about special diets.
If you have diabetes, your GP or diabetes specialist nurse will advise on whether you still need to have your insulin injections or oral medication. Often these are stopped in the last days of life and there is also no need to continue with blood sugar testing.
Not wanting to drink can cause a lot of upset for carers. We’ve all been taught that water is essential for life so not needing to drink can be hard to accept. As you get weaker your swallowing can be affected too and this can lead to food and drink ‘going down the wrong way’ making you choke and affecting your lungs.
Occasionally, if you are losing lots of fluid through diarrhoea or vomiting, you may be given fluids through a drip into a vein to prevent dehydration. The decision to give fluid this way will be discussed with you and your carers and made only if it adds to your comfort and wellbeing.
Not drinking can make your mouth very dry as can some of the medication you may be having. Mouth care is very important and something that carers can help with. Simple things like moistening the mouth with a damp sponge and preventing dry cracked lips by using lip balm or Vaseline can make a difference.