Feeding Tube Awareness Week (FTAW) runs from Feb 5-11 2023 and is about increasing awareness and understanding of those living with feeding tubes.
This will shine a light on what it is like for individuals and their families to live with a tube feed. In support of Tube Feeding Week, we would like to answer some questions about tube feeding, dispel some of the common misconceptions and explain how the NDIS could help:
What is tube feeding?
Tube feeding is a form of nutrition therapy where a feeding tube delivers nutrition for individuals who are unable to get enough nutrition through eating alone. A flexible tube is inserted either through the nose or directly into the lower digestive system where food is delivered in liquid form. A tube feed can remain in place as long as the individual needs it. In addition to the tube feed, some individuals are still able to eat food orally which is very important for quality of life and overall enjoyment of eating. Speech Pathologists can assist in this process by helping determine what foods are safe to consume.
Why do individuals need tube feeding?
An individual may need a tube feed for a number of different reasons, some of these include:
- Issues with their mouth or oesophagus
- Issues with their stomach or upper small intestine requiring a tube feed lower down the digestive tract
- Inability to safely swallow or a high risk of aspiration while eating or drinking
- Difficulty reaching nutrition needs through oral intake alone
What goes into the tube?
Based on individual assessment, a Dietitian will find the best formula to meet each individual’s nutritional needs. This may include a ready made formula or homemade liquid food specifically prepared for the purpose of tube feeding. Again, depending on the individual’s needs, preferences and lifestyle, feeds can be administered using a number of different methods and across different parts of the day.
Is tube feeding easy?
Transitioning to a tube feed can take adjustment and it is important for individuals to have a support system to assist them with the process. There are sometimes complications that can occur such as bowel issues, leaks and irritation around the site where the tube is inserted, however these are often minimised after necessary adjustments are made. Individuals also have access to a support system of health professionals including doctors, dietitians and nurse practitioners that can help navigate these issues.
It is important to note that individuals are still able to participate in life whether it be socialising with friends, dating, going to restaurants or going to the beach. Lifestyle and personal interests are all very important considerations when deciding the most appropriate tube feed. With increased nutrition, individuals often have more energy for these activities.
Can nutrition support be funded through my client’s NDIS plan?
Yes! With a clinical assessment, nutrition support could be funded if they are deemed reasonable and necessary. Criteria include but are not limited to:
- The need for nutrition support is a direct characteristic of the individual’s disability e.g. swallowing issues etc.
- Increased nutritional needs are not being met through food intake alone; function issues with the mouth, oesophagus etc on the ability to uptake nutrition.
- The individual’s nutrition needs are not able to be met through regular food alone.
- Other nutritional options have been trialled and have been found to be clinically unsuitable.
- Without nutritional intervention, the need for additional support would most likely increase. For example, a decrease in functional ability.
- The feed and equipment are not already funded by the PBS or other systems.
What is considered nutrition support under the NDIS?
Nutrition support can take many different forms for our clients and will depend on their needs and the assessment outcomes. These can include:
- Nutritionally complete supplements and feeds
- Feeding tube equipment and maintenance
- Feeding bags and bottles
- Supports to assist in the management of feeding requirements if unable to manage these independently or to assist with maintenance and care
What can help get nutrition support funding in the NDIS plan?
In order to increase the chances of getting nutrition support successfully funded through the NDIS, it is recommended that you get a supporting letter/assessment and quote from a health professional such as a Dietitian.
If the feeding tube has been newly inserted whilst in the hospital, the hospital Dietitian can provide this. If it’s a feed tube that has been in place for a longer period of time, a community-based Dietitian can provide this.
Dietitians can also provide ongoing support in the community to monitor tolerance of the feed and overall nutrition status. They can also support you in getting ongoing funding for this in the NDIS plan.
Need to learn more?
To learn more about Feeding Tube Awareness Week, head to https://www.feedingtubeaware.com.au/
To talk to our Dietitians, you can reach out to Recovery Station on 1300 588 851.
Until next time,