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Can someone with dementia forget how to swallow?

My dad has had Alzheimer's for the last several years. Lately I have noticed a change in his eating habits, he either refuses to eat or just holds the food in his mouth and doesn't want to swallow. I know behaviors change with every stage of the disease but this has been the hardest one for me to handle. Any suggestions on dealing with this?
Status: Open    Dec 20, 2015 - 06:34 PM


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Dec 22, 2015 - 12:42 PM

Unfortunately, yes, losing the ability to swallow is an effect of Alzheimer's Disease. A speech therapist will be able to work on this ability with your father. Your local agency on aging or similar governmental agency should be able to help you locate a certified speech therapist for this type of therapy.

Dec 23, 2015 - 12:58 PM

Not eating is one of the hardest things to deal with when caring for someone with dementia and unfortunately, yes, this is common. There are actually a lot of things to consider when trying to figure out why someone with dementia won't eat.

Does their mouth hurt/dentures fit? Has he had any medication changes that could affect this? Do they like the food you're preparing? Are they tired or falling asleep during meal time? Food too hot or too cold? Can they see the food ( white potatos on white plate is hard)?

Try: smaller meals throughout the day, very flavorful/strong foods (like with lemon, herbs, spice, etc, not excess sugar or salt ) as people's taste buds diminish and things don't taste good, sit with them during meal time to make it an interactive and friendly atmosphere.

I would recommend seeing his MD for a speech language pathology referral if you feel that he is "forgetting" how to eat vs some of the above ideas. They will be able to complete a thorough evaluation and make recommendations specific to his needs.

Best of luck!

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