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Can someone forget how to swallow?

My dad has had some memory problems over the last few years. However, since Thanksgiving, he has been in and out of the hospital 5 times. His condition is deteriorating very quickly, almost daily. We have a nurse coming in (from his last discharge from the hospital), a physical therapist, a psych nurse, and hopefully soon a CNA. We are having trouble getting him to take his pills, eat, or even drink now. Watching him, it seems like he has forgotten how to swallow, which I had never heard of until the one nurse brought it up. We are trying to get a speech therapist out to see if indeed this is the issue. In the meantime, he has developed a wheeze and cough that I'm concerned may be from aspiration.

Status: Open    May 19, 2015 - 03:11 AM

Senior Health & Nutrition

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May 23, 2015 - 01:02 PM

Yes he can forget how to swallow.
What might be happening at this time is some foods and liquids may be too thin.
As the muscles weaken it is difficult to swallow thin foods and liquids. Thickit might help. It is a powder that you add to food and liquid to thicken it and make it easier to swallow. I am sure there are other products like it on the market but this is the one I use for my husband and it has helped a lot.
You can adjust the viscosity from anything from a nectar to a pudding depending on how much you use.
The cough and wheeze may be due to him aspirating liquids. When we take a drink or a bit of food the throat knows what is food or liquid and what is air and it closes off the passage way to the lungs or stomach depending on what it is supposed to do. As the muscles weaken it is more difficult for the body to recognize what needs to be done.
For pills you can crush them and put in pudding, apple sauce or cottage cheese to make it easier to swallow. Check first there are some medications that should not be crushed.
You may find that it will be easier for him to eat foods that have been blended. Take what ever you are eating and puree it with a bit of yogurt or if it is a meat and veggie meal a bit of gravy will help.
Good luck.
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