BACKGROUND: Decreasing oral intake is common towards the end of life and a potential source of distress and concern for patients, relatives, whānau and clinicians. This paper provides insight to inform practice regarding clinicians' perceptions, practices, responses and communication with patients and their companions regarding declining oral intake towards the end of life.
METHODS: In this qualitative study ten specialist palliative care staff participated in semi-structured interviews. Qualitative thematic analysis was used to analyse the data.
FINDINGS: Three themes were identified: declining oral intake was a natural part of the dying process; responding empathetically; and clinicians described specific aims and ways regarding communication.
CONCLUSION: Insight into clinicians' endeavours to manage declining oral intake and support the wellbeing of patients, families, and whānau can inform practice. However the perspectives of family, whānau and health professionals continue to show significant variation regarding the communication given and received around declining oral intake towards the end of life.