The Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation has identified more than 300 conditions that require the use of a feeding tube, ranging from neurological disorders to esophageal conditions. Those who become caretakers of tube-fed adults often find themselves in that position because a parent or partner has developed a medical condition or is undergoing chemotherapy.

We understand the challenges this can bring when overseeing the health and well-being of someone you love. The following tips address some of the ways to overcome such challenges when caring for a tube-fed adult:

Medication is often thicker than formula. Due to their density, syrup and crushed pills are the most common reason tubes get clogged. Try diluting them before you administer the medication. If you are still dealing with blockage, you can run warm water through the tube while pushing and pulling with the syringe. Sometimes, carbonated beverages can also help break things up.

Some leakage is to be expected. It’s fairly common to see a small amount of clear or tan leakage around the stoma. This isn’t anything to worry about, and can be cleaned up with a wet washcloth or cotton swab. They can become worse, however, if granulation tissue becomes present. In those cases, you can use gauze or G-tube pads to absorb the liquids.

Other leakage needs to be addressed. When there’s leakage of formula from or around the tube, then that means your loved one isn’t properly receiving their nutrition. This can be caused by anything from having the wrong size tube to the anti-reflux valve malfunctioning on the pump. The latter can often be addressed by flushing it out with warm water; if not, it may be time to replace the part altogether.

The tube may dislodge or come out altogether. Make sure you put together a plan of action with your doctor in the case that the feeding tube comes out of the stomach or drifts out of place within the body itself. Some caretakers feel comfortable placing the tube back in themselves. However, if your loved one’s condition is too delicate, you will need to arrange for a health care professional to fix the tube.

These are just a few of the hints and tips to get you started. Tube-feeding an adult can be a very complex procedure, and you should consult with your doctor on best practices for your loved one. For more information on Johns Hopkins Specialty Infusion Services, visit our website, or call 410-288-8105.

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