Common Gastrointestinal Issues In Hospice Care Patients

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There has been an increase in cases of terminal health conditions. No single aspect has been attributed to this rise. But researchers have worked round-the-clock to come up with strategies of helping patients cope with the conditions.

In some cases, however, there is nothing that conventional medicine can do for a particular situation. At this stage, the care of a patient will move from a curative-focused one to a comfort-based approach. This calls for hospice care.

While in most cases where hospice care is institutionalized, you can also opt for home hospice care services. This way, you can spend maximum time with your loved one and also play a role in his/her care. Home-based hospice care is no less aggressive compared to institution-based care.

Gastrointestinal issues are among the most distressing problems in terminal conditions handled in hospice. The following are the prevalent gastrointestinal issues and the hospice care approach to them.


This is among the most distressing gastrointestinal issues. The intake of opioids, reduced oral fluid intake, and loss of appetite are some of the primary contributors to constipation during the later stages of a condition’s progression.

In most cases, patients will have stool softeners and oral laxatives prescribed regularly to alleviate constipation. In case the constipation is severe, the experts might recommend suppositories and rectal enemas in addition to oral laxatives to mitigate it.


Most of the medications used to manage the symptoms of patients with terminal conditions will cause them to become nauseated and regularly vomit. In this instance, the patient will be on constant anti-emetics to avert the vomiting.

This way, they can keep food and fluids down and boost their energy levels. Other than drugs, eating small meal portions will help to minimize vomiting episodes and get enough nutritional support for the patient’s well-being.

Feeding Problems

feeding this senior citizen some food

Depending on the disease process, there are times when patients will contend with mouth sores that make it hard to handle the oral intake of foods and fluids. Moreover, some of the medication might decrease your appetite.

In both cases, the feeding problems make it hard to support your recommend caloric intake and contribute to an aggressive disease progression. If a patient can no longer feed orally, hospice care providers might insert a nasogastric tube for liquid nutrition.

Abdominal Swelling

Ascites, or fluid in the abdominal cavity, is the most common cause of abdominal swelling in terminally ill patients. This is a result of the supine position most patients assume for their comfort and the disease process.

Abdominal swelling not only makes it hard for you to feed but will also push against your diaphragm and make it hard to breathe. A change in position might relief some ascites, but medications and tapping of the fluid are the standard management modalities for the same.

Some people assume managing the above symptoms is not as complicated provided the patient is pain-free. The management of hospice patients, however, focuses on alleviating the specific issues a patient is experiencing through a more personalized rather than standardized approach.

To this end, experts will first assess a patient’s condition before managing symptoms to ensure they do not cause more harm than good.

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