If you or someone you love will begin taking in nutrition by feeding tube, it can bring a range of feelings and anxieties to the surface. Learning what to expect can help ease the transition. Here are some helpful tips:
Prepare for Physical Adjustments
Enteral nutrition must pass through one of several tube types to get into the body. Nasogastric (NG) tubes can be administered through the nose, and jejunostomy (J), gastronomy (G), and gastric-jejunal (GJ) tubes are surgically installed through the skin.
Some uncomfortable side effects can occur, ranging from inflammation in the throat and nose to skin irritation at the insertion site. Additionally, it’s important to learn proper tube hygiene, since tubes and insertion sites require special cleaning and upkeep to prevent infection and deterioration. Patience and support will be key to adjusting and overcoming physical challenges.
Expect Schedule Changes
Once a feeding tube is established, it will be medically necessary to administer nutrition, either manually or through a pump, on a regular schedule to ensure proper nutrition and health. This will likely require adjustments to activities and educating people in the tube-feeder’s life about this important change in daily life.
For some tube feeders, it also may take them some time getting used to not eating by mouth. Help them remember that their formula is designed to provide specific nutrition for their optimal health.
Activity is Key
Despite all these changes, tube-feeders do not need to give up all regular activity ranging from sports to travel. It’s important to keep up as many activities, when medically indicated, to create a sense of normalcy and to maintain health.
Do Your Own Research
While your doctors will certainly help you get up to speed on what to expect, the Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation urges you to do your research, so that you can be an informed advocate for yourself or your loved one. The more you know, the better you can handle challenges and complications.
Most importantly, remember that you are not alone. Organizations like the Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation and The Oley Foundation are full of resources to support you through every imaginable challenge.
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