Having a feeding tube placed is a medical decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Feeding tubes can help people overcome serious nutrition issues but they can also cause stress, frustration, and other health issues.
Here are five questions to consider and ask your healthcare providers before you have feeding tube placed.
What is the goal/purpose of the feeding tube?
Every feeding tube should be placed with a goal in mind. That goal should be measurable and have a time frame. Goals should also be specific to YOUR health, not someone else’s experience or something you read online. Examples of goal might be to get 100% of your calorie and protein needs met, gain “x” amount of weight in “x” weeks, tolerate a formula free of certain allergens while maintaining your weight. If for any reason, you aren’t able to meet your goal talk with your healthcare provider about how to adjust your plan.
How long will I need this tube?
Some individuals will require a feeding tube for their entire lives, while others may only need them for a few weeks or months. Ask your provider how long they anticipate you will need the tube. They may only be able to give you an estimate since so much of nutrition depends on your body and changes overtime.
Who will help take care of my tube?
Depending on your age and how independent you are with your care, you might need help with your tube feeds. For examples, will you be able to set up your own feedings, clean the skin around your tube, clean the tube/syringes, crush medication, move around boxes of formulas, etc.? All of these tasks can be a lot for one person, so having a trained family member, friend, or trusty neighbor can help lighten the work load. You should also know how often these people will need be there to help you. Will you need someone 24 hours per day or just once a day to check in?
How much will this cost?
The cost of having a tube feed can vary great depending on your needs and your insurance plans. Some people have to pay for tubes, pumps, formulas, and syringes, while others do not. Working with your healthcare team, including your social worker (or case manager) to find out what you insurance will cover and how much you should expect to pay per months. The last thing you want is a surprise bill in the mail.
What complications can I expect and how do I prepare for them?
The best way to overcome complications with tube feeds are to plan ahead for them! Some issues, like feeding tube clogs, are almost guaranteed to happen evenly, so work with your healthcare provider before they happen to find out what you will need to do to fix them. Based on your reasons for having the feeding tube and the type of tube, it may be easy for your provider to tell you what complication to expect and how to prevent and correct them.