As reported by U.S. News (Health), a recent Brown University study based on data collected from nursing homes has linked the use of feeding tubes to higher risks of bed sores in dementia patients. This may be one consideration for those with loved ones in nursing homes, as failures to prevent, recognize, and treat bed sores are some of the most common signs and instances of nursing home neglect.
The article states that providing nutrition via feeding tubes may cause dementia patients discomfort, agitation, and diarrhea. These symptoms may then lead to healthcare providers restraining or sedating patients. Ultimately, these results can put dementia patients with feeding tubes at a higher risk of developing bed sores, or of having existing bed sores worsen, than dementia patients without feeding tubes.
Further, the article states that the study's results challenge the long standing belief that feeding tubes help aid the healing of bed sores in dementia patients. Personally, I'm not sure that the data says much about whether feeding tubes can aid the healing of bed sores or not. While I am in no way qualified to determine what is medically best for a patient, to me it seems plausible that the issue/cause here is not whether the actual feeding tubes are a proper form of treatment, but whether the standard of care provided to patients undergoing this form of treatment is proper.
Bed sores are caused by a lack of blood flow to a certain area of the body, and occur when a patient is bedridden or immobile for a significant period of time. I would assume that patients with feeding tubes are more likely to be immobilized or bedridden for extended periods of time than patients without feeding tubes, resulting in a higher probability that their blood flow will be cut off. But should this higher chance of immobilization really result in these patients being over 2 times more likely to develop bed sores than patients without tubes? I would guess not. I think it is plausible that feeding tubes could be a proper treatment for dementia patients, but that nursing homes may be neglecting these patients by not taking proper measures to prevent bed sore development when patients are immobilized or bedridden.
Regardless, this risk the article mentions should be taken into account when deciding whether to use a feeding tube to care for a dementia patient in a nursing home, but it should probably not be the deciding factor. Like many other health care decisions, there may be positives and negatives to using a feeding tube with a dementia patient. Decisions like these should be discussed with professional healthcare providers, and the risk of bed sores should of course be discussed and monitored. Regardless of whether a patient has a feeding tube or not, bed sores can and should be prevented with proper treatment (see #4).
If bed sores have caused injury to a loved one, please contact the experienced attorneys at Ed Fox & Associates today.