Questions and Answers


Q: Why does my loved one show disinterest or refuse to eat?

A: There are many reasons why your loved one may not desire to eat. Many of these reasons are a natural part of the body’s process of dying. Following is a short list of them:
Decreased metabolism/decreased appetite: As your loved one is less active, the body needs less food to survive. Therefore, your loved one’s appetite will also decrease.

Alterations in taste: The ability to taste may decline, alter, and eventually may not be there at all. When something does not taste good or is tasteless, eating may not be something that is enjoyed anymore.
Fatigue: Often people are more tired closer to the end of life. They may rather sleep than worry about eating.

Difficulty swallowing/decreased interest: The ability to swallow may become more difficult. If swallowing starts to become harder, your loved one may begin to cough more often. When eating becomes more of a chore than a pleasure, he/she may also lose interest in it.


Q: My loved one has a very dry mouth. What can I do to make him/her more comfortable?

A: As your loved one draws closer to death, the desire to drink liquids may also decrease. As time goes on, swallowing may also be painful. Often it even becomes more difficult to swallow liquids. There are a few things that you can do to help:
Mouth swabs: Hospice will provide you with soft mouth swabs to clean your loved one’s mouth.

Ice chips/juice cubes: If your loved one has a favorite type of juice, you may try putting it in an ice cube tray and offer the juice cubes to suck on. Small chips of ice may also moisten the mouth. (If swallowing is difficult, place ice chips or frozen juices in a washcloth and suck on the washcloth.)
Lemon drops/hard candy: Sucking on hand candy will increase the saliva in the mouth, making it less dry and sore.

Lip Balm: You can apply this to your loved one’s lips every two hours to moisten his/her lips and prevent cracking.

Q: My loved one does want to eat, but is there anything I can do to help?

A: There are a few things that you can do to make this experience more pleasant:
Attractive preparation: Try to use different colors on the plate.

Favorite foods: Try to think of your loved one’s special foods to serve them.

Strong spices: Due to the decrease in taste sensation, a lot of spices may be needed for your loved one to enjoy the food.

Small portions: Often if your loved one desires to eat, he/ she still will not be able to eat a lot. Small portions of food will seem less threatening and may give your loved one a sense of comfort for eating all that was served.
Eat when hungry: Only give food to your loved one when he/ she asks for it. Your loved one knows when he/she feels hungry or desires to eat. If you continually offer food, your loved one may eat it only for you.

Your loved one may need permission to eat less: If needed, remind your loved one to eat only what he/she wants. It is not necessary to finish the whole plate.

Supplements: Some supplements don’t smell the best. Cover the supplement with a clear wrap and poke a straw through it to avoid a bad smell.

Reminders and Tips

Anorexia (lack of appetite) occurs in about 65% of all hospice patients.

Rejection of lovingly prepared food is not a rejection of love

Do your best to avoid the “eat a little more” urge

Remember, if all your loved one wants is a piece of chocolate for breakfast – that’s OK!

Try to always remember that the goal of hospice care is to keep your loved one comfortable

More FAQs


What is hospice?

Hospice is not a place, but rather a concept of care. Hospice care promotes quality of life and seeks to relieve symptoms, provide emotional and spiritual support and, most importantly, allows a person to live his or her remaining days with dignity.

Hospice recognizes dying as part of the living process and focuses on maintaining the quality of remaining life. Hospice affirms life and neither hastens nor postpones death.

Hospice care can be implemented wherever you call home; whether at a home, nursing home, hospital or assisted living facility. The hospice team at HSHS St. Nicholas Hospice is dedicated to assisting you and your loved ones in attaining your goals at this very difficult time and helping you live each day to the fullest.

Who qualifies for hospice?

A person with a terminal illness with limited life expectancy and is no longer seeking aggressive treatment may qualify.

How can I get hospice services?

Anyone can make a referral to Hospice by calling (920) 457-5770.

Who pays for hospice care?

 Hospice may be covered by:
• Private health insurance
• Medicare
• Medicaid
• Private pay

Services will not be denied due to inability to pay.

What services does hospice offer?

HSHS St. Nicholas Hospice services are designed to support your physical, emotional and spiritual goals. These services may include, but are not limited to:

  • Oversight of your care by the hospice board certified medical director in collaboration with your primary physician.

  • Regular nursing visits by a hospice nurse who specializes in symptom management and end-of-life care.

  • Registered nurses available 24-hours per day, 7-days per week.

  • Hospice social workers available to assist you with future planning and provide support and resources during this very difficult time.

  • Certified nursing assistant and homemaker visits to assist you with personal care and homemaking needs.

  • Spiritual care services offered for spiritual support.

  • Volunteer services to meet a variety of individual and caregiver needs.

  • Therapy services, such as physical and occupational therapy for improved independence and functional abilities.

  • Medications and equipment provided based on individualized needs.

  • Bereavement services for grieving family members.