But you're not alone. In the United States, there are about 15 million people caring for someone with dementia, and millions of others around the world. As there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's disease—and only limited medical treatments available for the symptoms—it is your caregiving that can make the biggest difference to your loved one's quality of life. That is a remarkable gift.
She has presented at national and international conferences on topics related to adult dysphagia and written numerous articles for leading SLP blogs and magazines.
Dementia and Dysphagia Dementia is not one specific disease. Caregivers of people with dementia play a critical role in encouraging oral intake and in identifying swallowing problems in this population. This article discusses some of the challenges associated with dysphagia in dementia, and suggests strategies for caregivers to help enhance mealtimes for their loved ones.
Some dysphagia signs and symptoms can be noted during or just after meals. There may be increased coughing or throat clearing, a wet or gurgly voice may be heard especially when drinking liquids or you might notice a person physically struggling with eating — spilling food from their mouth, holding food or chewing for too long, choking, or becoming fatigued during the meal.
Over a longer period, caregivers may notice the person avoiding certain foods or may identify weight loss, dehydration, or recurrent chest infections; some of which can develop into pneumonia. As caregivers, you can help prevent serious complications related to dysphagia by identifying the early stages at which swallowing problems begin.
If any of these symptoms are present, be sure to consult with your physician as soon as possible. They will provide you with a referral to a speech-language pathologist SLP — a certified healthcare professional who plays a primary role in the assessment and treatment of eating and swallowing disorders dysphagia in individuals across the lifespan, including adults with dementia.
Common Causes of Dysphagia in Dementia There are number of reasons why individuals with dementia may lose interest in eating and drinking or develop swallowing problems.
Some of these include: A speech-language pathologist is a skilled professional who will identify the swallowing impairment and help determine the least restrictive solid food texture and liquid consistency that would be safest for oral intake. All these problems can make mealtimes frustrating and stressful for caregivers of people with dementia.
It is important to remember that dementia varies from person to person and these problems might look different in your loved one, depending on the type of dementia and stage of their disease process. Consequences of Dysphagia The presence of dysphagia in individuals with dementia can lead to serious consequences such as weight loss, malnutrition and dehydration; all of which can lead to other serious medical complications in older adults.
It can also lead to lung-related complications such as aspiration pneumonia, which may cause the person to be hospitalized and even become life-threatening. All these factors combined can increase loneliness, isolation, depression and loss of dignity surrounding meals.
Mealtime enhancement tips for caregivers Watching a loved one lose interest in eating or drinking, choking, or having difficulty swallowing can be heartbreaking.
Caregivers can help their loved ones in many ways throughout the dementia disease process to optimize food intake, increase safety during meals, minimize risks of aspiration and to enhance mealtimes.
Here are some tips that can help: Positioning Make sure the person is in a comfortable, upright position during meals, preferably sitting out of bed if possible, during meals. Ensure they are not slouching or leaning over to one side.
To aid digestion, keep the person upright for 30 minutes after eating. Minimizing Distractions Minimize environmental distractions during mealtimes. Serve meals in quiet surroundings, away from the television and other distractions.
Avoid placing unnecessary items on the table that might distract or confuse the person. Use only the basic utensils needed for the meal.
In some cases, too many foods at once may be overwhelming for some individuals. Simplify, by serving one or two dishes at a time.
Follow some of these strategies to ensure swallowing safety: Alternate small bites and sips. Feed the person patiently, with a slow rate of intake.
Make sure all the food and liquid is swallowed before feeding the next bite. Frequently check the mouth to make sure there is no accumulation of food, especially in the cavities of the cheek or on the tongue.
Feed meals when your loved one is most alert and attentive. Some might eat better if provided with smaller meals throughout the day, instead of three big meals at a time.Everything NICE has said on assessment, management and support for people living with dementia and Alzheimer's disease and their carers in an interactive flowchart.
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Dementia progresses through stages - early dementia, mid dementia and late dementia. Read typical symptoms at each dementia stage. Read how dementia progression affects patients' memory and ability to perform activities of daily living, and when behavior is most challenging.
Dementia is a chronic, progressive disease that is now much more widely recognised and treated. Patients with dementia may require palliative care when they reach the end stage of their illness, or they may have mild–moderate cognitive symptoms comorbid with a life-limiting illness.
Tips for Daily Life. Coping skills will help you handle day-to-day challenges, maximize your independence and live a meaningful life with your diagnosis. Efforts should be made 1, To declare Dementia and Alxheimer’s patients as Brain Invalid and get for them all the advantages of Invalids.2, Open AD/dementia consultancy services at all govt and private hospitals having Neurology Deptts