Helping Patients Live with a Feeding Tube

Living with a feeding tube probably seems like the last thing your patients want to do. And likely, it’s a huge deal for them. However, if they’re unable to eat and drink as usual, a feeding tube may be the best recommendation for them. Discussing the ins and outs of how they’ll live with a feeding tube is part and parcel of excellent patient care.

One of the most important things you can do while discussing the feeding tube with your patients is to educate them on what it will be like living with a feeding tube.

The best news that they’ll want to hear, however, is that they can still do most of the daily activities they’ve always done. But some of their time will now be spent on feeding tube maintenance and awareness. Here are some of the points you may want to cover with your patients. Our MIC-KEY* Care & Use Guide is also a helpful resource. (

Preventing clogs

Teaching patients how to avoid or manage tube clogs can help make their lives easier. Flushing with the suggested amounts of water before and after use and after medicine is crucial. Plus, educating patients that flushing feeding tubes even on days when they are not used is also a good practice to maintain. [1]

Teaching patients how to avoid or manage tube clogs can help make their lives easier.

Watching for infections

It is imperative that patients are taught that their stoma must be checked daily for redness, irritation and infection. [1] Cleaning the area may be required. Since sore skin around the stoma can be common [2], educating patients about care of their stoma is essential.

Caring for oral hygiene

Even though your patients aren’t eating and drinking, they still must perform the proper oral hygiene care like brushing and flossing their teeth. [1] Reminding them of this can help keep teeth and gums in good health.

Nausea, cramps or stomach problems

Nausea, cramps and stomach upset may occur with a feeding tube. Instruct your patients to alert you of any such stomach upset, and that typically, a change in formula and/or medication may help alleviate these stomach problems. [1]

Feeling left out

When patients can’t eat normally, they may miss the taste of food or being social around food like going out to eat or to parties. Discussing these feelings is important. Patients should know that they can still go out and be social, in fact, it should be suggested that they maintain their social lives since much research supports the fact that relationships with friends and family are good for your health. [3] If your patients are comfortable using their feeding tube around others, which is a personal decision, they can use their feeding tube while others are eating. But whatever their preference is around food and socializing, reminding patients that get togethers should really be about connecting and sharing time with friends and family.

Staying physically fit

Educating patients about staying fit is imperative to good physical and emotional health. Patients can still participate in most activities. [1] In fact, the MIC-KEY* low profile feeding tube is synonymous with an active lifestyle. These tubes sit at skin level making them very comfortable and easier to conceal than other tubes. With the MIC-KEY*, there is no tubing outside the stomach, which also makes them less prone to snagging during physical activities. Patients should learn about the various tube types and if the MIC-KEY* is right for them. The MIC-KEY* often helps patients get back the freedom and mobility they need for an active lifestyle.[4]

Support Network

Finally, a support network for patients is highly advantageous to their continued good health and well-being. Sometimes that support comes from family and friends. Other times, a support group of others who live with a feeding tube, or even speaking with a psychologist or therapist can help with the adjustment. Finding a strong support network is one way patients with feeding tubes can adjust to life with their tube and all that it entails. The Feeding Tube Awareness Foundation and other organizations may be a resource for patients seeking support.

[1] Nazario, Brunilda, MD. Living with a Feeding Tube. WebMD. 2007 Sept [cited 2018 May]. Available from:

[2] Burch, J. Management of Stoma Complications. Nursing Times. 2011, Nov. 10. 107:45, 17-20.

[3] Harvard Health Publishing. The Health Benefits of Strong Relationships. 2010, Dec. 10. Available from:

[4] Haylard Health. Haylard Health Makes Enteral Feeding Safer and More Comfortable. Career Express. 2017.