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when is feeding unethical ?


Registered User
Aug 12, 2014
The basic scenario is that our mum is in last stages of alzheimers and also was diagnosed with breast cancer 1 year ago. we have been supporting dad, with the help of professional carers for about 8 years,so she can remain at home. over the last few weeks things have declined even quicker than before bearing in mind mum has not spoken for about 4 years and is totally chair bound ie. moved from bed to chair then chair to bed all the time. it is obvious to us that she is suffering and probably in pain, due to her general agitation / face grimacing etc. this is so untolerable and both my sister and myself feel mentally unwell just seeing this every day ,getting worse, unable to even recognise mum physically as the person she was. in fact, its disturbing to see. the main issue now is that mum is basically refusing food and drink. we are more or less forcing food into our mothers mouth? this, we realise can potentially be dangerous, with risks of things like aspiration of food into lungs etc as she doesn't ever swallow properly or sit in a comfortable position for eating. Dad unfortunately, seems to be in denial of just how upsetting this is for me and my sister. he ,for all the best reasons I must add, wants everything to " carry on as normal". I have constant nightmares and wrestle with my conscience as to whether I am participating in something unethical like force feeding. I suffer from multiple mental health conditions anyway, but this is a constant obsessive thought ie am I doing the wrong thing? I can see from the expression in mums eyes that says " just stop trying to make me eat I'm sick of this" . I have to say that for the family as a whole, this existence is torture.


Registered User
Sep 27, 2006
I would get in touch with your local hospice and ask that the nurse attached to the hospice pays mum and dad a visit. The hospice have a wealth of advice and are very familiar with the situation you have described. They will be able to set your mind at rest on all kinds of things which you are worrying about.

I would also visit mum's doctor and have a word with him. He may also be able to pass you onto a palliative care team who are also very familiar with your worries.

My very best wishes to you and all your family in this terribly hard situation.



Registered User
Sep 7, 2012
I would approach your Mum's GP and ask for palliative care.

I would be most worried about your Mum grimacing and seeming to be in pain...there is no need for that to happen, keep on speaking up on your Mum's behalf to make sure she is kept pain free.

Food? my Mam stopped eating, nothing could persuade her, though we never tried to force her, her refusals in the face of begging her to eat, were forceful enough.

Please get some outside help, it's not about your Dad...it's about your Mum.

We had district nurses coming to Mam's house, they were the palliative care team in our area, they knew how t keep Mam comfortable.

Please seek help.

So sorry for you, your Mum, Dad and sister. Hard times. x


Registered User
Sep 27, 2006
As I said, my very best wishes to you and your family in this terribly hard time



Registered User
Jan 17, 2007
Thinking of you, went through something similar with my Dad the last 4 weeks were the hardest of my life, I just wanted his suffering to be over.

The palliative care team were non existent at the hospital, they brought him sausage and mash when we had made the hardest decision not to feed, and left it in front of him though it said Nil by mouth above his bed. In the very end I managed to get him into a hospice for the last few hours of his life, at least he had a bit of dignity, I really feel for you, I'm sorry as I know how very hard this is x

Please contact your local hospice, they know how to help you with this x
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Registered User
Oct 11, 2012
Hello Charlie Hampden,
This must be such a trial and tribulation for you and your family! I hope the advice given helps move things forward. Your mother deserves some peace and some pain relief and a peaceful passage.



Registered User
Aug 29, 2008
The local hospice may have a hospice at home team, there is one where I live and they were the first help I had with my husband. Absolutely wonderful.

They were approached by district nurse and helped me to step back a little.

My husband ended up in a home fir the last few months and they tried to feed him, they asked me to do it and I did it once. Then I refused as I felt it was not what my husband wanted.

Most surgeries have a palliative dare team too, they meet and discuss each case. Dist nurse, Macmillan nurse, gp. And any other medical person involved and monitor each patient. It sounds as though your mother should be on that too.

Have you approached macmillans as they will recognise if your mother needs proper painkillers.

There is help out there. Gp first though.