be shared with a resident’s decision maker and other family members, as well as other professionals. It emphasizes the benefits of assisted oral feeding over a PEG, and discusses the importance of advanced directives planning for residents with dementia.
The Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Ethical and Legal Issues in Feeding and Hydration discusses the importance of a supportive interdisciplinary effort using a culturally respectful approach to support families and caregivers through their decision making process. It emphasizes the individual’s “right to request or withhold nutrition or hydration as medical treatment.”
It is our professional and ethical responsibility, and well within our scope of practice as SLPs working with long-term care residents, to document not only what is safest for a resident but to additionally comment on (1) the resident’s prognosis for developing aspiration complications and (2) quality of life considerations.
Dementia is commonly considered in the research to be a terminal illness, and as such, it is appropriate for an SLP to explain in documentation that while there is risk of prandial aspiration with oral feedings, that the placement of a PEG tube will further increase the resident’s risk of developing complications like aspiration pneumonia.
Furthermore, nonoral nutrition is shown in the research to have no positive impact on quality of life in residents with dementia. In a time where the focus is on evidence-based practice, it is important to be well-versed in the current research about PEG tubes and dementia, and to be able to fluently discuss both the pros and cons with residents, their caregivers, and other professionals.
SLPs have the power to be the voice of reason when PEG tubes are discussed for residents with dementia. Rely on the research to guide your professional judgment and step up in the discussion for your residents and for their dignity.