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J Am Geriatr Soc. 1990 Nov;38(11):1195-8.

Long-term enteral feeding of aged demented nursing home patients.

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  • 1Jewish Home and Hospital for Aged, New York, NY 10025.


The terminal phase of dementia is initiated by the inability to swallow. New techniques of enteral alimentation permit more effective, longer intubation. To assess the application of these new techniques to late-stage demented aged patients, all current intubations in a teaching nursing home were reviewed. Of 52 feeding intubations, 26 had been in situ for more than 1 year. A randomly selected comparison group of nonintubated patients was also studied. Weight increased for 48% of the intubated group versus 17% of the nonintubated group (P less than .01). Aspiration pneumonia occurred more often in the intubated group (58%) than in the nonintubated group (17%) (P less than .01). Decubitus ulcers were also more common in the intubated group (21%) than in the nonintubated group (14%). Restraints were used more in the intubated group (71%) than in the nonintubated group (56%). These differences did not reach statistical significance. All of the intubated patients were severely demented, with MMSE scores of zero. Seventy-one percent of the nonintubated group were demented, with MMSE scores of less than 23. Prolongation of the terminal phase of dementia in the aged by tube feeding is now feasible. The implications of this change in the life-span of demented nursing home patients need attention by families, nursing homes, and those who make public health policy.

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